Mortlach Revamped: 12yo, 14yo, 16yo & 20yo

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If you’ve followed my musings on Edinburgh Whisky Blog for the last few years, you’ll probably remember one of the last articles I wrote on Mortlach, where I aired my thoughts on the distillery’s last range, which consisted of a ‘Rare Old’ NAS expression, an 18 year old and a 25 year old. Safe to say I wasn’t impressed. The liquid was fine, but the price points, small bottles and overnight positioning of Mortlach as a ‘luxury brand’ really fucked me off. Big time. That was four years ago, and it looks like I wasn’t the only one who gave these official Mortlach expressions a bit of a side step.

Last year a completely revamped Mortlach range was introduced, firstly in Taiwan before being rolled out to other markets. At first glance, things look more positive; 70cl bottles, a range of ages from 12 years old to 20 years old, and, most pleasingly, relatively sensible price points. The 12yo ‘Wee Witchie’, 16yo ‘Distiller’s Dram’, and 20yo ‘Cowie’s Blue Seal’ will be available domestically, with a 14yo ‘Alexander’s Way’ being available exclusively in Global Travel Retail. The two younger expressions are matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks while the two older expressions are matured solely in ex-sherry casks. Let’s get straight to it.

Mortlach 12 years old
The Wee Witchie
43.4% ABV
£49.95 here

Nose: Polished rosewood, gingerbread biscuits, and a touch of cracked black peppercorns. Then overripe peaches, stewed apricots, some walnut whips and hazelnut pralines. Possibly lighter than I was expecting but quite well balanced.

Palate: Caramel barrels and toffee pennies, then dried apricots, cranberries, and three fruit marmalade. Underneath there’s cinnamon, milk chocolate, tobacco leaf, and pencil shavings.

Finish: That chocolate lingers, with some woody spices and a wee lick of oak.

Mortlach 14 years old
Alexander’s Way
Global Travel Retail Exclusive
43.4% ABV
RRP £50

Nose: Very zesty; lemon sherbet and lemon bon bons alongside vanilla sponge and white pepper. Then cooked apples and pears, yoghurt coated banana and dusty spices – cinnamon and clove.

Palate: Ginger, white pepper, creamy vanilla and white chocolate. All very light and moreish. Then peach cobbler, rosewater, barley sugars and some drying oak.

Finish: Ginger zing with wood shavings and lemon sorbet. Rather vibrant.

Mortlach 16 years old
Distiller’s Dram
43.4% ABV
£79.95 here

Nose: Proper Mortlach territory – muscovado, black banana, sweet dates, baked apples with cinnamon, some clove too, chocolate orange and marmalade on toast. Quite earthy too, with conifers, mulchy leaves, damp logs and singed heather.

Palate: Big fruits initially – rum soaked raisins, sultana cake, Morello cherries, dark honey orange blossom, and toasted almonds. There’s a darker side too, with sweet black tea, unlit cigar, old Chesterfields and cask stave.

Finish: That sherry influence lingers, with tingling baking spices, sweet leather and old oak.

Mortlach 20 years old
Cowie’s Blue Seal
43.4% ABV
£195 here

Nose: Significantly meatier, with clove studded gammon, and a noticeable game note. A faint whiff of salt and vinegar crisps and Branston’s Pickle, with a waxed cricket bat, old leather, teak, cacao nibs and liquorice.

Palate: Orange zest, apricot jam and blackcurrants. Then floral honey, Turkish Delight, dark chocolate, more of those cigar notes, hoisin sauce, and mango chutney.

Finish: Very long, with tagine spices, thick oak and dunnage warehouse.

Overall: Well, from the look (and taste) of things, it’s a real return to form for Mortlach’s OBs in my opinion. Thank fuck for that. The 12yo and 14yo may be slightly atypical of what most people have come to expect from official bottling, with them being light, less sherried, and a more typical Speyside-y dram, but they’re really enjoyable nonetheless. The 16yo, which will no doubt we rather unfairly compared to its Flora and Fauna predecessor, is a cracker, and I probably prefer it to the 20yo, but both are excellent whiskies. Diageo: you released the previous range, many people (myself and thousands of others) voiced their less-than-pleased opinions about it, and you listened and reacted. This range does the Beast of Dufftown a lot of justice. Kudos.

 

 

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