Mortlach 21 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Mortlach 21
Gordon & MacPhail have a Mortlach 15 and a Mortlach 21 in fairly regular release and I’ve always been very curious about both. I’ve never pulled the trigger on a purchase both because I’ve heard inconsistent things about both bottlings (and there’s no year of release or batch number clearly marked) and because the prices I’ve seen have always seemed a little high for non-cask strength indie releases. Accordingly, when this 21 yo went on sale in Minneapolis last year I finally went for it. I opened it as the lead whisky in a tasting of older malts with my local group late last year and while it was no one’s favourite it put on a decent show in the company of some higher powered malts (including this Archives Bunnahabhain and this Scott’s Selection Glen Grant).

I sat down with it later for a formal review. Herewith, my findings (these notes were taken more than a month ago—the bottle itself is long gone).

Mortlach 21 (46%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Toffee, light maple syrup and quite a lot of dried orange peel. Some dusty oak as well along with some milk chocolate. Sweeter, more pungent fruit as it sits: apricot jam, a bit of plum and some raisin; the citrus is still very prominent though. With more time there’s a gamy, mushroomy sweetness too. Water amplifies the sweeter fruit.

Palate: Lighter on the palate, though with more prickly bite than the abv would suggest. The citrus and peppery wood are most prominent—more acidic than on the nose. With more time some of the other fruit from the nose begins to show up but there’s not as much depth here. The mouthfeel on the whole is a little thin too. A bit of water rounds it out, adding a little more body and a little more sweetness to the citrus.

Finish: Medium-long. No new development—the wood, spicy and peppery, is the main player here. The citrus hangs around longer with water and a bit of chocolate emerges too.

Comments: I liked the nose a lot but there’s not as much going on on the palate (though it improved with water). Still, while it’s not very complex it’s a very pleasant whisky with no real flaws—a nice one to reach for while watching a movie or reading. Not sure I’d pay the price for another bottle though.

Rating: 85 points.

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