Below Bhainidh/Mortlach 13, 2007 (Hepburn’s Choice for K&L)

Okay, here is a week that will fulfill multiple themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies; all whiskies bottled for K&L in California; all whiskies from Speyside distilleries. First up is a teaspooned 13 yo Mortlach (you may recall that most/all of K&L’s cask exclusives last year were teaspooned, i.e had a bit of whisky from another distillery mixed in). Mortlach is most well-known in its sherried avatar. The combination of the sherry casks, its unusual distillation regimen and its use of worm tubs often lends Mortlach’s spirit a meaty and slightly sulphurous quality. In this case the cask is a refill hogshead, which almost certainly means it previously contained bourbon. In theory a sherry butt can also be broken down and re-coopered into a hogshead but given the premium charged for any whisky to whose label the word “sherry” could be attached in any form, it seems unlikely that this is such a sherry hogshead. Anyway, let’s see how it compares to last month’s Mortlach 21 which was from a sherry cask. 

Below Bhainidh/Mortlach 13, 2007 (54.5%; Hepburn’s Choice for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)

Nose: Honey and malt. More fruit on the second sniff: citrus, mostly lemon. Then there’s some grass, cereals and some cream as it gets sweeter (some berries in there too now). Water gives it some depth; less citrus now. A bit of a vegetal note emerges.

Palate: As indicated by the nose: lemon and sweet notes of honey and berries. More bite as it heads to the finish but it’s very approachable at full strength. Nice texture as you expect with Mortlach. The lemon keeps going and picks up some pepper but the sweetness gets a bit cloying with every sip. And then it starts getting more astringent and less interesting. Okay, let’s see if water gets this back on track. It does. That vegetal note from the nose thankfully does not carry through here; instead there’s waxy lemon peel and a bit of white pepper.

Finish: Medium-long. Lemon and a bit of char; some salt with time and the pepper hangs on here too. As on the palate with water.

Comments: This was a bit of an up and down (and up again) malt. It started out nicely, threatened to go off the rails and then recovered nicely with water. Very pleasant on the whole, if a bit anonymous, but nothing to get so very excited about.

Rating: 84 points.
EW! Rating: 105/100 points



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