Mortlach 12yo 2008/2020 (56.8%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, Bourbon Barrels #800110, #800126 & #800127, 710 bottles)

After the wonderful and very interesting Loch Lomond, let’s try another Whisky fully matured in ex-Bourbon casks. This time one that was distilled at Mortlach. Mortlach has quite the reputation with Whisky Aficionado’s and rightly so. For instance, Mortlach 16yo was arguably the best offering in Diageo’s once extensive Flora and Fauna Range. Having this niche popularity, Diageo decided to do something more with the brand that is Mortlach and discontinued the 16yo around 2012 in favour of a Rare Old (NAS, not rare nor old, 80 points), an 18yo and a 25yo (84 points). All in 500 ml bottles! These three were released in 2014 and replaced in 2018 by more common age statement versions: 12yo, 16yo (a magic age statement for Mortlach) and 20yo. All three now in 700 ml/750 ml bottles. Mortlach is known for its Whiskies matured in Sherry casks. The 16yo Flora and Fauna is an example of this, and I thought an offering by Wilson & Morgan was even better than that. No surprise then, this has matured in a Sherry cask as well. I also reviewed a Provenance Mortlach earlier, I suppose was matured in Ex-Bourbon wood, which was not so interesting, so let’s see if this Signatory Mortlach is any good, or we should stick to Sherried versions of Mortlach altogether.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Winey, clear glue, creamy and slightly acidic. Not your usual creamy vanillin kind of smell though. A moment later some more fruits emerge, as well as the creamy vanilla powder notes. Dusty and slightly smoky (probably from toasted oak, not peat). Hints of gravy and cold dishwater, and some soft sugared fruit notes. This is a big Malt, which already shows amazing complexity. Not a cloying smell, since a nice fruity acidity keeps playing its part. This is a Mortlach and Mortlach is a special distillate, and boy, does this smell special. For some this may be a simple kind of Whisky, just pour new make into Bourbon Barrels, mind you, they didn’t even turn those into hogsheads, lazy buggers, and job done, easy, simple, no hassle. Yet Mortlach in a Bourbon Barrel, comes out slightly different from Whiskies from other distilleries matured like this, there is always something different about Mortlach, richer, beefier, meatier, just bigger, special. It’s almost like the fatty acid chains are just longer with Mortlach (without becoming soapy). Hints of raspberry hard candy, next to the half-ripe yellow fruits. Just not as exotic as it can be in well matured Tomatin’s. However, keep in mind that this is only 12yo, and not 30yo like the Tomatin’s I just mentioned. I don’t even know why I brought that up, since Mortlach and Tomatin are very different from each other. So fruity it is, just not all that tropical.

Taste: Sweet and very, very nutty and fruity at the same time, much more fruity than expected actually. Some wood, more akin to pencil shavings than oak, to be honest. Including a slight harmless bitter note. Again, not cloying since the big body also has enough fruity acidity to help it along. Nice. What a wonderful start. Signatory have recently issued some Mortlach Sherry Monsters from the 2010 vintage, which are more or less the same age, but I can’t imagine those ones beating something like this. Licorice powder, some paper and some spices as well as a peppery backbone. Sometimes a sweet minty note pops up. Mocha, milk chocolate. Tastes like a dessert Malt now. Hints of hay, more paper and overall still quite complex. Nice finish and a long warm aftertaste, including the glue again, which you pick up on initially when smelling a freshly poured dram of this.

This is an excellent Mortlach that was not matured in a Sherry cask. Very big and tasty, with complexity and length. The quality is unmistakeable and this will please a lot of Whisky aficionado’s. Its a good example of the spirit of Mortlach and a good example of what “simple” American oak can do. The quality is right upfront, and easy to see for everyone. I scored the Loch Lomond from the previous review slightly higher than this Mortlach, but I also believe, that one might not be for everyone, and you can only find the true beauty of the Loch Lomond when you work it a bit. The Mortlach is more suitable for casual drinking, its always good. the Loch Lomond needs your full attention, otherwise it can be a grumpy old git and will Will-slap you across the face.

Points: 88

Mortlach 11yo 1992/2004 (46%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Autumn/Summer, DMG 627)

Talisker Storm is essentially a young Whisky, one of today’s NAS-expressions. A decade ago, this 11yo Mortlach would be considered a young Whisky and back then we hardly ever heard of NAS-Whiskies to boot. Mortlach is known for its unique distilling regime where the Whisky in the bottle was distilled 2.6 times. Mortlach is also known for dark and dirty Sherry bottlings. Mostly first fill and Oloroso. Just have a look at this Wilson & Morgan Mortlach. So Mortlach fits in the group of Macallan (of old), Aberlour, Glendronach and Longmorn.

However, here we have a rather pale expression of Mortlach bottled by Douglas Laing, from the time Fred and Stewart were still running a business together. Douglas Laing had essentially three series of bottlings. Provenance, Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare (better known as the Platinum-bottlings). There were some more, but lets stick to these three better known ones, shall we? Provenance was mostly reduced to 43% and later 46%, Old Malt Cask to 50% (if possible) and generally older and more special. Finally Old & Rare-expressions were cask strength en even older still (and extra special). Maybe there are some exceptions but in my mind all were single cask bottlings. Here we’ll try a young and very pale Mortlach from the least expensive series of the three. Young-ish and reduced.

mortlach-provenance-11yo-1992-2004Color: White Wine.

Nose: Fresh, soft and fruity. Some barley and definitely some citrus notes. Very fresh and “summery”. Hints of bread, mocha and nuts, but also a chewy, green oaky note. Vegetal. Green leaves and perfumy. Hints of dishwater and latex paint as well, which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Powdery and dusty, in part like the smell of old books, some leather and cold gravy. Warm butter and vanilla pudding. Quite a lot happening here, and a bit dirty alright. Although all of the aroma’s I’m picking up here, are pretty different, the whole is well-balanced. They mix together well. Mortlach is known for a meaty element (from Sherry casks), but that is lacking here.

Taste: Barley again and a lot of the vegetal, green and oak notes. Chewy again and it has a short sharp edge from the oak. It’s almost like virgin oak this, with a bite. A little bitter woody bite. Don’t think now this is a bitter Whisky, because it isn’t. The bite itself is extremely short, leaving room for a very soft and mellow Whisky. Cannabis and vanilla. Creamy, with cookie dough and chocolate-chip cookies as well. Sweet(ish) and fruity. The taste of this Mortlach is less complex than the nose. Judging by the color, the cask didn’t seem all that active, but it did impair a lot of the woody notes, so it probably was an easy pick when considering bottling a younger Whisky. Hey, but it’s not all (soft) wood notes, there is also some coconut, nutty and creamy aroma’s. (something you can also find in some Glen Keith‘s matured in ex-Bourbon casks). It’s fruity as well. Medium nutty and creamy finish, with hints of cannabis (the first time around). With a medium bitter aftertaste giving the whole experience some backbone.

Mortlach is known as a dirty, meaty Sherried Whisky. However, this probably came from an American oak cask that previously held Bourbon. So does the meaty part come from the Sherry then? Well not entirely. Especially on the nose, the distillate, without the influence of (Oloroso or PX) Sherry casks, still shows a meaty aroma. Cold gravy I called it, and dirty. It doesn’t taste as a dirty meaty Mortlach to me though. Remarkably soft, and pretty decent overall, yet nothing special as well.

Points: 81

Cadenhead Creations 20yo ‘Rich Fruity Sherry’ (46%, Batch No. 1, 2013)

Cadenheads CreationsMerry Christmas everybody! In 2013 Cadenheads released a home-made blend called Cadenhead Creations (Rich Fruity Sherry). This first batch had an age statement of 20yo and was bottled in 2013. The blend was made with two casks of Single Malt and two casks of Single Grains. Samples of those casks are pictured here on the right. From left to right: Mortlach 1992 (cask #7848), Bruichladdich 1993 (cask #1648), Cameronbridge 1989 (cask #22804) and Invergordon 1991 (cask #39006). Since then two more Cadenhead Creations were released. A 21yo (black label, silver stripe, Blended Malt made with Ardbeg, Bowmore and Caol Ila) and a 17yo (white label, yellow stripe, another Blended Whisky made with Ardmore, Auchroisk, Caperdonich, Clynelish and Invergordon).

Cadenhead Creations 20yo 'Rich Fruity Sherry' (46%, Batch No. 1, 2013)Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Although it seems that this is a 50/50 mixture of Single Malt and Single Grain, the nose is more on the grainy side. Malty and waxy, paper and cardboard. Very nice wood. Meaty, nutty and spicy. Deeper down some hints of Sherry, not upfront as the label suggests. Fruity (but not sweet) and lots of character.

Taste: Malty and grainy again. The waxiness is here to, but here it is fruity and accompanied with a little bit of sweetness. Sweet paper and cardboard again. Some short, hot or red peppery attacks. Spicy and slightly bitter wood. Aspartame sweetness. The wood upfront and may be too strong. The wood makes it right across the body of the Whisky into the finish. Along the way the wood picks up a little bit of oaky bitterness, with together with the red peppery attack make the finish.

Rich, yes, rich wood. Fruity, well not so much if you ask me, the wood is way more pronounced. Sherry, well if you expect the dark Sherries from the picture above, that´s not the case here. It doesn’t remind me of Oloroso or PX-Sherry casks at all. This blend is about wood in many guises.

Points: 81 (for character)

Mortlach 10yo 1989/2000 (57.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

…and here is my second entry for our Genietschap gathering. Yesterday I reviewed an older expression of the ‘standard’ 16yo Flora and Fauna, and that was pretty good!

This Wilson & Morgan bottle was the opener of the day. Chosen for that reason because it was the youngest one.

Color: Copper Brown.

Nose: Yeah Baby! Heavy thick Sherry, meaty, but without the harshness and without the Sulphur! What a character and that at only 10yo. Raisins. Tarry and dry. Nice and you can even call this fresh and perfumy.

Taste: oh yeah (again!). Dry Sherry (at first) with tar and coal, than sweeter with a peppery attack. The coal, fabulous, just an old steam locomotive in here, and warm asphalt. Again there is nothing off here, not much wood, no sulphur and not harsh.

Very nice play between a sour and sweet note in the finish (amongst others some orange peel). It’s not only very good, but very interesting as well.

Would I have known it then, this would have been bought by the case! I’ll do something bold here, and score this young one at least…

Points: 90

Mortlach 16yo “Flora & Fauna” (43%, OB, L19T00187153, Circa 2002)

This saturday Het Genietschap had another gathering. This time at Jos’. Jos usually has one and the same theme: “lets enjoy any whisky”. This time, like last year, he choose a single distillery theme. Last year he choose Strathisla, after we found some nice Strathisla’s at Max Righi’s shop.

One of the other gems he found there, was a very old 20yo Sestante Mortlach, so the theme for this year soon became Mortlach. I have to admit, I really love a tasting with a single distillery theme, especially when a lot of bottles are brought in. Strange enough that was not the case with Strathisla, but with Mortlach we had 14 of them, and an extensive aftertasting with some other gems. (Laphroaig 10yo unblended bottled in the mid 70’s!).

So I brought two Mortlachs, this one being one of them. This is a Flora and Fauna bottling from ten years ago, and as was proven to me, there can be quite a difference between bottlings in this series. So it would be great to compare this to the most recent version of this. Without further ado:

Color: Orange

Nose: The nose explodes in the glass, and can be smelled from afar. Nice rich sherry, very balanced and warming. There is some coal in there, as is some asphalt, tar and some smoke. A small hint of mint. Slightly perfumy and powdery. Some added lemon peel freshness with vanilla. Not overly complex, but an instant hit.

Taste: Chewy sherry, sweet and very likable. Very smooth. Perfect balance. Small amount of woody bitterness to counterpart the sweetness, but the latter wins. This is a grown (wo)man’s lemonade. Dangerously easy drinkable. Inside the sweetness also some licorice, tar and sugared almonds can be found. The finish is the same and slowly dies away. Late in the finish there is, and dare I say this: pineapple. Very balanced and well made.

This is just a perfect Flora & Fauna bottling. Maybe just a tad too sweet, but that depends on your mood. This bottle is very nice, but at the moment I can’t vouch for more recent bottlings. When I have a chance to taste a more modern one, I’ll write a comment, so watch out for that in the future.

Points: 88