By Kurt Maitland
As covered in my earlier review of Mortlach’s Rare Old, The Mortlach Distillery was established in 1823 and carries the distinction of being the first legal distillery in Dufftown. “The Beast of Dufftown,” as it is popularly known, was always a complex whisky that a favorite of blenders and is widely used in various Johnnie Walker releases.
This famous flavor is due to Mortlach’s unique “2.81 distillation” process, which involves a calibrated distillation of spirit using all three of Mortlach stills. Each of these stills has a different design, and it is that process that seems to give “the Beast” its fabled strength.
For most fans who craved Mortlach as a standalone release, it could be found as an independent bottling or the much beloved and recently departed official Flora and Fauna 16 Year Old release from Diageo. But that all changed last year with the announcement that Diageo would replace Flora and Fauna with 4 new expressions – Rare Old (an NAS release), an 18 Year Old and 25 Year Old, along with a travel retail-only version of the Rare Old called Special Strength, which has a higher proof, 49% abv release.
Having covered the normal Rare Old, the time has come to take the next step up and look at Mortlach 18 Year Old. This installment was bottled at 43.4% abv.
Color: Golden Amber
Nose: Rich and heavy with nutty, earthy tones
Finish: The finish on this release quickly turns drier and has a low burn.
Palate: For me in this release, the traditional Mortlach complexity has been tempered by age. The mouthfeel feels multi-layered and complex, while the flavor has a candied sweetness that mixes with caramel and semi-sweet cocoa. There is a sneaky spiciness that drifts in with the hints of melon and other fruits.
Some water boosts the sweetness and cuts through the earthiness of this release but it also diminishes the finish. For my taste, this expression doesn’t gain much from the addition of water. It’s a delicate, well balanced release that tilts too much toward sweet when water is added. I’d be interested in tasting a higher proof version of this release to see if that would change.
I enjoyed this release. I have to say that I have never had a “bad” Mortlach (and I hope to keep that streak going), however there is the issue of the price…
Here is the only place I can bang on this release. This release will range from $250 to almost $300 US, depending on where you find it. Considering that a good number of the independent bottlings from this distillery, as well as the original Flora and Fauna release, clock in at less than half of that price (or at least they did until recently), the increase in price is a hard hit for someone who wants to keep this release on their shelf or buy a dram at their favorite pub.