Tag Archives: Mortlach

Mortlach 16 Year (K&L Wine)

Mortlach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Distilled 1998
The Signatory Vintage Un-Chillfiltered Collection

55.8% ABV

What the Bottler Says
Can we keep the Mortlach momentum rolling? It seems that ever since we released that amazing sherry butt of Mortlach from Chieftain’s all those years ago, we’ve been riding a wave of Mortlach enthusiasm for the sherry-aged Speyside beast. Diageo even released their own single malt version (maybe we had something to do with that, eh?) We’re always on the lookout for more Mortlach, especially sherry-aged barrels, and it turns out that Signatory had a sherry-finished butt sitting in their Pitlochry location just there for the taking. The first sip is all you need to get excited: lots of gingerbread, cinnamon, holiday cookie goodness just explodes on the palate, with cakey, sherry flavor rounding out the back end. At full proof, it’s as much of a beast as ever. But the fact that this cask was simply finished in sherry, rather than aged in the sweet wine from day one, is a big benefit. The maltiness of the whisky is still there at the core and the finish still sings of whisky

What Richard Says
Nose: Spicy and fruity. Allspice, sage, cinnamon, vanilla, nectarines, and dried apricots.
Palate: Rich and mouth coating with a terrific sweetness. Cigar humidors, more dried apricots, cinnamon candies, high cacao dark chocolates, and a big smack of sherry.
Finish: A nice woodiness with hints of graphite and cinnamon. When everything else fades you’re left with dark chocolate cocoa powder.
Comments: This beasts needs the water. Even for those, like myself, that regularly indulge in the 52-58% cask strength dram this one needs a few splashes or it comes out too hot. Delicious, but too hot. You’ll only be tasting the first dram otherwise. Sadly, this barrel is all sold out. With Diageo releasing their own ridiculously overpriced proprietary bottlings of Mortlach I’m sure the glory days of independently bottled, heavily sherried Mortlach are nearly gone. But there may still be time. If you are a fan of sherry forward malts (Macallan, Aberlour, Glendronach, etc.) and you see something like this Mortlach at a reasonable price then grab one. They rarely disappoint.
Rating: Must Buy

Alexander Murray Mortlach 22 Year

Alexander Murray & Co Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 22 Years
40% ABV
$50 (Costco Exclusive)

What the Bottler Says:
Mortlach distillery was established in 1823 by John Findlater, Mortlach was the first of Dufftown’s seven distilleries. The distillery has always been held in high regard and is locally thought on, as one of the very best Speyside whiskies. Alexander Murray brings you this rare bottling of Mortlach distilled in 1989, matured for 22 years in oak casks. It is dark golden in color, on the nose is quite subtle with elegant depth. Notes of barley, hints of oaked tannins and dry wood. The palate is smooth and buttery, with a long warm spicy finish. Perfect for any occasion.

What Elizabeth Says:
Nose: Cherry oak furniture stored in your great grandfather’s barn.
Palate: Swishes well, delightfully smooth.
Finish: Strong spicy berry taste but not overpowering.
Comments: Yummy. Not complicated at all but sometimes simple is best.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh butter, apricots, hints of grass, grain, and sherry.
Palate: Surprisingly sweet and delicate. Brown sugar crumbles on peaches and cream.
Finish: A little harsher than the I would’ve expected after the nose and palate. Oak, rubbery, and very dry.
Comments: This one is a Costco exclusive bottled under the Alexander Murray label. Not nearly as aggressive as other Mortlach’s I’ve had but very drinkable. The nose is nice and the palate is great. The finish leaves a little to be desired but at less than $50 you can’t go wrong.
Rating: Must Buy

Qu’est-ce que c’est?

“I hate people when they’re not polite” as the song goes.  Whisky writers and enthusiasts have long been accused of elitism.  Even those of us who seek to lift the veil on whiskey’s mysteries, can fall prey to what some see as arrogance and snobbery.  Whisky festivals often seem to enforce this theme.  The vast majority of attendees are white men over forty with very comfortable lifestyles.  Clubs, guilds, or societies often host the events.  There is often a dress code.  One expects a certain amount of decorum.

Where am I going with this?  Well I’m about to rant in a way that suggests my own elitism (though that is hardly the point).  This week the Single Malt Whisky Society hosted the Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza.  The event itself was very great.  However, some the attendees did not comport themselves a way befitting their standing.  There are always a few assholes at events like this.  There are the guys that pre-game and show up drunk.  There are the guys that don’t understand the point of the spit/pour buckets and are hammered after the first table.  My chief complaint this time?  The guys that do not respect the “talent.”

Unless you are at Whisky Fest, most of the folks behind the tables are brand ambassadors (as opposed to Master Distillers).  Brand Ambassadors range from dudes in kilts with a brogue to well educated non-kilt wearers to actors, actresses and models.  These folks are the “talent.”  Back in the day, the actors/actresses/models rarely knew anything about whisky in general and sometimes not much about their own brand.  I’m happy to say that (apart from a handful of brands) this is becoming a thing of the past.  They still hire pretty girls (they know their market), but the brands are doing a better job with education.

While talking to the Heather at the Glenfiddich table (a real class act who knows her stuff), I heard someone behind me mutter, “it doesn’t matter how many questions you ask, she is not going to sleep with you”.  This is unacceptable.  First of all, don’t disrespect a guy who is genuinely seeking knowledge.  That is the act of a barbarian.  Secondly, do not disrespect the ladies at these events (or ever for that matter).

If that was the only incident, I would still be outraged but I would allow that it was just one jerk-ass showing off for his friends.  However, throughout the night, there were many instances of this kind of behavior.  Now, I’m no prude.  I like a well shaped form as much as the next guy, but real men leave that kind of talk in the locker room or in the company of other men.  You’re momma raised you better.

If you’ve stuck with me this long, I guess I should talk about the event itself.  It was a good time.  The food was pretty good.  The layout in the tasting room caused some traffic flow problems.  The tasting tables were laid out in a “U” shape with table seating in the middle of the room.  There were times that navigating between the tasting tables and the seating became difficult.  Without prodding people to keep moving, I’m not sure there was anything to be done though.

There were over 100 whiskies on pour.  I tried a small amount of quite a few, but really took my time with a few others.  At events like these, I try to focus on things I wouldn’t normally try.  That night, the SMWS bottlings were high on my list.  They are all worth trying, but my favorites were the Cask No. 76.68-15yo from Dufftown (Mortlach distillery) and the Cask No 53.136-17yo from Islay (Caol Ila).  The Mortlach surprised me, because it was very sweet with some great berry notes.  Previous independent bottlings I’ve tried tasted like Robitussin.  The Caol Ila?  Well, that’s a distillery that continues to grow on me.  Perhaps my palate is getting more sophisticated.  Finally, I see what all the hype is about.  I get a lot of those fizzy, lemony notes I found in the unpeated Caol Ila with some great peaty bite.  This is a whisky you can chew.

I got my chance at the Ardbeg Rollercoaster.  Rollercoaster is very enjoyable, but I think the Corryvreckan was better.

Like Richard, I decided the give the Dalmore another try.  I’m still not enthralled.  For some reason, I’ve always wanted to like the Dalmore.  Maybe it’s Master Distiller Richard Patterson’s charm or the beautiful package design.  I’m never satisfied with the whisky though.

Usquaebach was there.  If you’ve never had this blend, I encourage you to give it a try.  The high-end version comes in a nice ceramic jug (it’s an NAS vatted malt).  That’s the only one I’ve seen on shelves.  They have two other versions. (a 12yo with some grain content and 15yo vatted malt).  For my money, I think the 12yo and the NAS are the way to go.  I wasn’t all that impressed with the 15yo.  The 12yo is a great little blend at a good price point.  I put it on the same level as Old Parr (maybe even better).

Overall, the Extravaganza was great.  I highly recommend the event.

Remember, if I see you disrespecting the ladies at one of these events, I’ll come at you like Richard Patterson going at someone putting water in a glass of Jura (seriously, he’ll slap you).

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G & MacP Tasting At Louis 649

Last night, I attended a tasting at Louis 649 in the East Village/Alphabet City.  The tasting was sponsored by Gordon & MacPhail.

I’ve been meaning to get to Louis for some time now.  My buddy Tristan is somewhat of a regular and speaks fondly of their whisk(e)y  selection.  A look behind the bar tells me why.  It’s not the largest selection in the city, but I have to respect a bar that stocks Sazerac, several Tuthilltown whiskeys and an interesting assortment of single malts.

As I sat down at the bar, I immediately felt like this was not going to be like any other tasting I’ve attended.  The other attendees were not your usual whisky tasting crowd.  From the folks I talked to, it seems that most of the crowd consisted of bartenders, alt.-writers/bloggers, cocktail crafters, and even one Absinthe distiller.  I have to say, it was very refreshing to see a room full of tattooed and pierced people and other eccentrics enjoying single malt whisky.  This is part of the crowd we apostles are hoping to reach.  Bringing whisky out of the realm of dimly lit, smoke-filled bars full of suits.  There were even a large number of women in attendance (close to half the audience)!  It made me smile quite broadly.  The fact that the crowd asked some really astute questions and got a little rowdy, made me smile even more.

The brand ambassador was an hour late to the event, but our host (Gianfranco Verga) started pouring anyway.  For me, this was nice.  I was able to give the first pour (five different drams) some real time and attention while we waited.  Here are my notes on the first five whiskies (all either bottled or distilled by Gordon & MacPhail):

Benromach Traditional (7-7 ½ yo)
40% ABV, 80 Proof
Nose:  Light smoke, smells strongly of fresh green apples, honey
Palate:  Light, small smoke, green apples, cloves
Finish:  Dry, long, turns slightly bitter toward the end
Comments:  Benromach is G&MacP’s distillery.  It’s the smallest distillery in Speyside and this expression is an attempt to define what traditional Speyside whisky should be.  This whisky spends about 80% of it’s maturation in first-fill bourbon barrels and the remaining 20% in first-fill sherry casks.  From a cost and taste stand point, Benromach Traditional sits squarely among our Gateway Speysiders, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet.  I would definitely recommend this whisky.

Benromach Organic (7-7 ½ yo)
43% ABV, 86 Proof
Nose:  Caramel, apple, sour (like bourbon mash), oak
Palate:  Viscous but light, green apple, toffee, vanilla and light spice
Finish:  A little burn, leaves the mouth wetter than the Traditional
Comments:  How can a whisky be organic you ask?    Well, the barley is organic and the virgin American oak in the barrels is organic.  That’s right, all virgin American oak (charred of course) just like the Glenmorangie Astar.  The Organic is much darker in color than the Traditional and woodier.  It may be a touch more balanced than Astar, but it is also a touch too light on flavor.  Not bad but, unless you have a tremendous amount of guilt about your SUV and beef habits, I think the Traditional is a better product.

Caol Ila (Connoisseurs Choice 1996), 8yo
43% ABV, 86 Proof
Nose:  Peat and pear
Palate:  Light but not much to except peat and it’s associate flavors (leather, anise, damp earth)
Finish:  Short but the peat lingers
Comments:  Caol Ila is one of the primary malts in Johnnie Walker and a handful of other blends.  It’s a good base whisky, but this one is nothing special to my palate.

Miltonduff, 10yo
40% ABV, 80 Proof
Nose:  Lady’s perfume, summer fruits and wild flowers
Palate:  Tastes exactly like it smells with an oily mouth feel
Finish:  The taste does not linger, but my tongue curls and cramps in aftershock
Comments:  If this is the key component of Ballentine’s, I might have to stay away from Ballentine’s.

Mortlach, 15yo
40%ABV, 80 Proof
Nose:  Green apples, nail polish remover and pipe tobacco
Palate:  Roasted nuts and cherry cough syrup
Finish:  Cherry cough syrup
Comments:  Mortlach is distilled 2 ½ times, aged in first fill sherry casks and “condensed” in worm tubs to create a more intense flavor profile.  Unfortunately, it is not a flavor profile that I enjoy in the least.  Though at least one attendee claimed it as her favorite.

After the first five, the tables were cleared and we were give four more drams.  We kind of rushed through them and both my tongue and nose were getting fatigued so my notes aren’t as good (especially on the last two):

Aberfeldy (Connoisseurs Choice 1989), 15yo
43% ABV, 86 Proof
Nose:  Smells just like the perfume they use to scent baby diapers
Palate:  Light, smooth, spice, vanilla, and caramel
Finish:  Burns with sweet caramel
Comments:  Aberfeldy is the key component of Dewar’s.  Not a bad dram, but the nose really turns me off.

Glen Grant, 21yo
40%ABV, 80 Proof
Nose:  Green apples, peaches
Palate:  Sweet, fruity, a little brine somehow (maybe I was sweating into my cup)
Finish:  Long and lovely
Comments:  I’ve always been a sucker for a good Glen Grant and I’ve always thought that it wore age well.  Very good indeed.

Benromach, 21yo
43% ABV, 86 Proof
Nose:  Sweet fruits and cereal
Palate:  viscous, soft, sherrywood, oak
Finish:  Long and luscious
Comments:  Fatigue setting in…

Macallan Speymalt 1972, 35yo
43% ABV, 86 Proof
Nose:  Extreme fruit (citrus, tropical, and dark berries)
Palate:  Same fruit as the nose with a creamy note and Christmas spice
Finish:  Long and luxurious
Comments:  Is it as good as the distillery-bottled 30yo?  I don’t know.  I really like the 30yo.  This is a little fruitier and a whole lot cheaper.  So you decide.

Whew.  That’s it, nine whiskies.  I don’t want to complain about too much free whisky, but this was a little much for any real objective tasting, especially when there were no spit buckets.  If you were following my Twitter posts, you probably noticed that the whisky was served from plastic cups.  That was a minor disappointment, but I think it was the shape of the cups, more than the material, that was the bigger problem.  However, I did get some good tasting in, so why am I complaining?  🙂

Thanks to Gordon & MacPhail and Louis 649 for putting this together.

Drink well, drink responsibly.