Here is an indie release from the Diageo distillery, Mortlach. Unlike Linkwood, Mortlach was promoted from obscurity to the frontline a few years ago when Diageo decided to put out a number of overpriced releases. (This was also the occasion for my whiffing badly in public as I’d anticipated that those releases would be priced very differently.) I’m not sure how those releases have worked out for Diageo. Whisky geeks have not been overly enthused about them but they may well be selling well to regular punters—if you have good information on this please chime in below. I’m also not sure how much Mortlach has been available since then to the independents; before then, of course, Mortlach was available almost entirely from the independents—the Flora & Fauna 16 yo being the only regular official release. Anyway, this was released last year by Malts of Scotland and looks to be very richly sherried.
Mortlach 20, 1994 (53.6%; sherry hogshead; Malts of Scotland cask #14046; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Starts out sweet with raisins and orange peel but then immediately takes a drier turn: beef stock, dried shiitakes, leather, salt. As it sits sweeter, fruitier notes begin to return: some plum now and also some apricot jam and some dark honey. Gets richer and stickier with time. Water introduces a slightly sharp note and throws the balance off.
Palate: Comes in darkly sweet and sticky (raisins, honey, plum sauce); big malty core below it and then heavily charred toast as I swallow. Absolutely drinkable at full strength. With more time, citrus joins the fruit complex and coffee and dark chocolate join the roasted layer. Water pulls out more of the citrus (and more lemon than orange now) and, on the whole, throws off the balance here too as the roasted notes recede.
Finish: Long. The charred notes (not smoky in the Islay way) go on for a bit and then the fruit emerges again from under it. As on the palate, dark chocolate here too with time. With a lot of time a bit of gunpowder emerges late—works very well with the fruit and chocolate. A little sweeter with water.
Comments: This is really rather good. I can’t remember when I purchased this sample but I hope it was already sold out when I did, and that it’s not the case that it was still available while I sat around not trying the sample. A sherry bomb with minimal sulphur of any kind but plenty of the meaty notes that characterize Mortlach. Given how little oak was present here the mind boggles at the thought of what this would have been like with another 5-10 years of age. But even as it is, if you have a bottle you’re lucky. Oh, and water is completely unnecessary.
Rating: 90 points.