The all new super-mega-ultra-premium Mortlach series

Mortlach Bottles

A few years ago when I was first broadening my whisky horizon, I was introduced to a bottle of Mortlach Flora and Fauna 16yo. I can still remember that moment to this day; I tried it at the Scotch Whisky Experience with a couple of friends, then immediately phoned my mum and sobbed down the line that a big bully had roughed me up and called me names. This was the first time I’d had a proper ‘sherry monster’, and I don’t mean the richly fruity, ‘tastes like Christmas cake’ Glenfarclases and Dalmores. This was more of an MMA fighter with an attitude problem, who’d not just knock you out and win the fight but proceed to rearrange your facial features just for fun. And you know what, I liked it. A lot. I liked it so much that I bought a bottle with my next pay check despite my mother warning me that it’d only end in tears. As it turns out, she was right.

The much loved Mortlach F&F 16yo has been discontinued and to fill this considerable void a new series of Mortlachs have been unveiled. At first I was drooling uncontrollably and dry humping sofa cushions like a small Yorkshire Terrier on heat – after all, Diageo had only recently announced a multi-million pound investment to substantially increase production at Mortlach. They’re assigning more spirit to the single malt category, I thought. Hurrah. Let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. However, my inner zen was shattered when I read the press release.

Dalmore and Glenfarclas vs Mortlach. Sort of.

£55 for an NAS. £180 for an 18yo. £600 for a 25yo. All in 50cl bottles. Fuck. Off.

50cl bottles might not be new, what with Nikka From The Barrel, Elements of Islay, Edradour Straight from the Cask, and Mackmyra et al all being sold at that volume. Hell, even our own That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottling comes in a 50cl bottle. But those are 50cl bottlings sold at 50cl prices. Apparently these new Mortlachs are being sold in 50cl bottles due to “the very limited supplies of this unique liquid”. If you say so. The liquid itself, apart from the Travel Retail Only ‘Special Strength’ bottling, will be sold at 43.4% ABV. Hardly turbo-charged rocket fuel. I was also amused/staggered to read that the design of these bottles is “a celebration of those audacious thinkers who shape and make today’s world, just as their forefathers did in the era in which Mortlach was born.” Really? Wow. Ok. So I guess it’s ok to give me 200ml less whisky than usual and charge me twice the price because the bottles are pretty and kinda have a backstory? Hmmm… I might have to take a rain check on that one.

It’s clear that Diageo are positioning Mortlach as a no holds barred luxury brand. “This range is all about redefining luxury in single malt whisky”, said Dr Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach at Diageo, with these whiskies targeting the “luxury connoisseur market”. That’s great, I like their conviction, but why alienate the vast majority of drinkers who have enjoyed the F&F 16yo for years by asking them to pay £55 for the ‘Rare Old’? Indeed, if it’s actually that old and rare, why not put an age statement on it so people know exactly what they’re getting? Diageo might argue that replacing the F&F with the Rare Old is a like for like substitution, akin to replacing your Ford Fiesta with a Volkswagen Golf. I see it more like replacing Cristiano Ronaldo with Jamie Carragher – sure, they’re both footballers but Carragher couldn’t score in a brothel. But then again, I might just be being cynical.

Artist’s impression of Mortlach 25yo tasting notes.

Perhaps the liquid will indeed smell like rainbows and Miranda Kerr, and taste like mermaids’ tears mixed with fairy dust, but I’ll probably never find out. In all honesty, I’m not sure how many people will – I can think of many other 18yo and 25yo whiskies I’d rather spend (significantly less) money on. These Mortlachs might be bought more as works of art to be admired in a cabinet or on a mantelpiece, and I suppose they embody everything I dislike about the ‘luxury’ malt whisky market. Lots of fanfare and penis waving for all to see, but nobody to really drink the fucking stuff.



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