Mortlach had a rebrand a few years ago and a new collection of bottles was developed for the “Beast of Dufftown”. This 20 year old is the oldest in the range and comes in at £200 a bottle but I have written about the 16 year old in the past which is the middle child in the range. For positive words on that bottle you can check out MORTLACH 16 YEAR OLD Distiller’s Dram. This makes it a direct competitor to Balvenie 21 Year Old Portwood we looked at earlier.
Before we move into looking at the whisky let’s consider what makes Mortlach interesting. There is a unique distillation process delivering a 2,81 times distilled new make condensed in worm tubs. The distillery is interesting in having 6 stills and each one is different to work together to create a blended spirit to use in maturation. Georgie Bell has a good detailed explanation of the process which I will stick below as I found it:
The first of these is the pairing of wash still #3 and spirit still #3 to create a malty distillate. Wash stills 1 and 2 work as a pair, which is unusual. All the runs are split into halves, the heads and the tails. The first half from wash stills 1 and 2 are the low wines and the lighter half. These are run through spirit still #2 which creates a lighter floral distillate.
The heavier half of wash stills #1 and #2 is run that through spirit still #2 once but no cuts are taken. Everything that has been through the stills is run through a second time but with the tails from wash stills #1 and #2. The richer half and the heavier half get even richer and more viscous.
“If spirit still #1 is small and its filled high, then it’s a bit of a copper contact. So taking it around twice is not really cleaning it to that same effect, so no cuts are taken. Everything that has gone around that second time is run through a third time with the set of heads from wash stills #1 and #2 because by this point, it has become way too thick and way too viscous. A spirit cut is taken from that.”
A spirit cut is then taken from spirit still #1 from every third run. Mortlach use worm tub condensers and the water is cold at 10 degrees, which means as soon as that vapour hits the copper, it turns back into liquid. So when the spirit is in liquid form, the copper cannot do its work, so every part of the production process is calibrated to create this character, and this has been calculated to be 2.81.http://www.cocktailsandbars.com/mortlach-2-81-distillation-process-explained/
So to the main event
Colour – marmalade orange
Nose – light, nutty and slightly astringent. overall very shy
Palate – zested mixture of citric peels which turns of mint leaves and polo mints
Finish – the bitterness of the citric peel contains and lingers on the tip of your tongue
For 20 years of sherry maturation this isn’t so much of a beast as a tamed zoo animal with the life gone from its poor eyes. Looking back at my notes on the 16 year old I would just buy 2 of those.