Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year one and all! I hope everyone was lucky enough to get some malty goodness in their stocking or at least have the opportunity to sample a few festive drams. Here in Australia the summer weather is uncomfortably hot for drinking whisky but, of course, I don’t let that stop me.
Welcome to the final post in my series of Mortlach reviews. It started innocently enough with a review of a Wemyss Malts Mortlach but has now expanded to include reviews of the entire distillery range. If you haven’t already seen them, please take a moment to read my earlier Mortlach reviews of the Wemyss Malts bottling here and the Rare Old and Special Strength here. As I have mentioned previously, prior to 2014 the Mortlachs available on the market were mainly independent bottlings, but this all changed when the new distillery range was released, comprising the Rare Old, Special Strength (travel retail exclusive), 18 Year Old and 25 Year Old. Today we’re looking at the final two of these whiskies.
The Mortlach 18 Year Old comes in a hefty and very striking bottle, decorated with beautiful metalwork at the base and curling up the sides. The whisky inside is a vatting of whisky matured in first-fill sherry casks and refill casks, and is bottled at 43.4% ABV.
Nose: Robust and dark, with opening notes of fruitcake flavours like sherry, raisin, orange, walnut and cherry then banana and pineapple. There’s a touch of Christmas ham (which frankly, I have had more than enough of this past week :P) that gives it an underlying meatiness.
Palate: Soft and complex, slow increase in intensity, clove, white pepper, coffee beans and grapefruit pith. There are notes of intense vanilla, dark stewed stone fruit and malted milk.
Finish: Gentle spices and citrus, not overly long.
The Mortlach 25 Year Old is also packaged in an absolutely remarkable bottle, shapely and intricate. The whisky is aged in refill American oak for a quarter century but remains rich and flavoursome, with only a light suggestion of oak and just a hint of smokiness.
Nose: Violet, creamed honey, vanilla custard and brioche followed by some more tarter fruity notes (orange and red apple).
Palate: Here it really opens up; ginger, warm cinnamon buns, pineapple, milk chocolate, banana bread and chestnuts and walnut. It is rich and full, developing even more over five or ten minutes.
Finish: It coats the whole mouth and is ridiculously long and warming
Both the 18 Year Old and 25 Year Old in the Mortlach range are whiskies to be savoured. Both, especially the 25 Year Old, are quite expensive – but sampling these aged drams is certainly a treat with near perfect balances of spice, fruit, sweet and savoury notes.
In my eyes, Mortlach is certainly one of the great Speyside distilleries and comparing its different expressions is fascinating. They are enjoyable in their own right; they are even more enjoyable as part of an exploration of the distilleries signature characteristics, comparing the bottlings, ages and casks. I am very partial to the Christmas flavours on the nose from the 18 Year Old. Having said that, the richness of the mouthfeel and finish in the 25 Year Old is quite remarkable. Try one or try both, or try a Mortlach of your choice – just make sure you sample something from Mortlach; it’s easier to get your hands on an expression than ever before.