Tonight will be a Mortlach night!
Five whisky crazed friends are getting together at my house to share five premium bottles of Mortlach and in honor of this event, I’ll post my notes on the Mortlach Rare and Old I tasted at the Show in London. The show featured the Rare Old and the 25, but not the Special Strength and the 18. I assume that it has to do with the Diageo rollout schedule.
First comes the name. To rephrase Voltaire who famously remarked about the Holy Roman Empire “This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.” This Mortlach is no different: It’s neither rare nor old (nor is it really a Mortlach as we came to know it). Gone is the beefy, chewey heavily sherried whisky that was the Flora and Fauna 16 (reviewed here), and enter the age of mostly ex bourbon barrels (this is true also for the 25 year old, which I tasted but was unable to take tasting notes for). So for all you lovers of the style of F&F Mortlach, and many of the IB expressions (like the popular G&M 15 and 21), this is an end of an era.
The main thing I have to say about these official expressions is that they aren’t aimed at you and me. We’re not the target market for this “high end” “luxury brand”. That market is east of here. Aficionados who have liked Mortlach for years, will get nothing but grief from this move.
Don’t get me wrong: The whisky isn’t bad (although it isn’t really good, either), it’s just not the Mortlach we know and love. The right way to look at this, IMHO, especially in light of the capacity doubling expansion underway in Dufftown, is like Mortlach were closed distillery. The old Mortlach is closed, there will be no more F&F official bottlings. Independent bottlers still have stocks, and they’ll become slowly scarcer (and pricier) and Diageo has a new line of decent (though by no means earth shattering) whiskies that happen to be named Mortlach. This way, if you taste the 25 not expecting a “better” F&F 16, you might even enjoy it….
Mortlach Rare Old (43.4% ABV)
Appearance: Deep gold with quick legs. Some liquid residue remains on the sides of the glass.
Nose: Very light notes of sherry, but a lot of honey and some vanilla. Oranges are very pronounced, with a tinge of acetone or varnish. The nose is very light (nothing beefy there).
Palate: Dry and very alcoholic with orange leading the palate. Light mouthfeel, not chewey of full bodied.
Linger: Sweet oranges, light spices, mainly white pepper and light cinnamon.
Decent light drinking whisky, as long as you’re not expecting a Mortlach. Having said that, however, it is extremely expensive for its class (probably somewhere in the low to mid teens, so I’ll generously class it with the Glenfiddich 15, The Glenlivet 15 and the likes costing about £35-38 per 70 cl bottle). At £57 for 50 cl, you’d be paying the equivalent of £80 for normal 70 cl bottle.
That’s more than double the equivalent class’ prices and a very tough sell when the Glenfaclas 21 costs £76. Compare that with the Mortlach 18 year old’s announced price of £180 for 0.5 liter (£252 for 70 cl) and you see why I think this line of whiskies offers a very low VFM.