Mortlach 21, 1990 (Signatory for Binny’s)

Sherry Cask Week comes to an end with this 21 yo Mortlach distilled in 1990 and bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago in 2012. Yes, I’ve sat on this bottle for almost 10 years, and no, I cannot begin to tell you why. Back in the day, Binny’s had one of the best cask exclusive programs in the US, if not the very best. Brett Pontoni and his team selected casks of a good quality and sold them for good prices without too much hoopla. Those days are long gone as no one seemingly is able to find good casks at good prices anymore and some don’t even seem able to reliably find acceptable casks at good prices. Hopefully the wheel will turn sometime soon. It’s sad to think of how much harder it is now for someone just entering the hobby to truly experience the full range of single malt whisky than it was a decade ago. Will the industry at some point price itself into a dead-end and have to retrench? Or will marketing win out? When you look at what is happening on social media with not just single malt whisky but also bourbon (and increasingly brandy), it seems hard to be hopeful that sanity will return anytime soon. The producers and marketers have whipped customers into a frenzy and all too many people seem excited to pay high prices for marginal bottles. Anyway, let’s go back to 2012 when this 21 yo sherry cask Mortlach cost $99.

Mortlach 21, 1990 (52.8%; Signatory for Binny’s; sherry butt 6073; from my own bottle)

Nose: As predicted by the colour (gold) this is not an all-out sherry bomb; it leads with bright orange peel and oak and salt. On the second sniff there’s more fruit under the orange peel—hints of apricot, lemon curd—and the oak gets mentholated and moves in the direction of citronella. Softens as it sits with malt and milky cocoa coming out to the top. A few drops of water emphasize the malt and cocoa and bring out some butterscotch and blend it all nicely with the apricot.

Palate: Very much as predicted by the nose at first with bright citrus and oak. But as I swallow softer, maltier notes begin to emerge. It packs quite a big bite for the strength; some of that may be due to the oak. The oak softens with time and lets the fruit—the citrus now joined by apricot—have freer rein. Moves further in that direction with water.

Finish: Long. The oak, drying as it goes, is the main character here. Softer here too with time and water.

Comments: This is anomalous in a couple of ways. For one thing, that meaty Mortlach character doesn’t seem to be in evidence; for another there are strong bourbon cask crossover notes. Though as many have said before, after a certain point with refill casks the previous occupant of the cask may not be as important as the kind of wood and I’m pretty sure this would have been a third or fourth-fillAmerican oak butt, probably toasted to revive it. That said, these notes were taken from the third pour from the bottle. The character may change as it stays open. I will try to remember to report back if it does.

Rating: 87 points, (Pulled up by water.)



3 thoughts on “Mortlach 21, 1990 (Signatory for Binny’s)

  1. While I can’t fully appreciate your tasting notes (my palate isn’t quite that sensitive), I am happy to report that I have a bottle of that same batch (#115 of 516) unopened. I believe I had another bottle years ago, and wasn’t overly impressed with it, so this has remained put away in a dark corner.

    I bought them at Binny’s when Brett gave our group a private tasting. Having read your notes, I think I’ll return the bottle to that dark corner and keep checking on it every once in a while.


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