And so a week of reviews of official distillery releases comes to an end. It started on Monday with an outstanding Springbank 10 (the 2021 release) and continued on Wednesday with a typically solid Clynelish 14 (from 2018). I have another 14 year old to end the week, this one from the Speyside. This Mortlach is not from the distillery’s core range; it is rather a travel retail exclusive. It bears the name “Alexander’s Way”. This refers to a prior owner of the distillery who apparently came up with their unique so-called 2.81 distillation regime—which along with their use of worm tubs as condensers—creates the idiosyncratic character of Mortlach’s spirit. You have to hand it to Diageo: these days when a distillery release has the name of someone like that on its label it usually does not bear an age statement. But Diageo have gone ahead and given us a 14 yo. Of course, they haven’t gone so far as to give it to us at 46%, leave alone at cask strength. This is bottled at 43.4%. That extra .4% of abv above the bog standard 43% must be doing a lot of work. And nor have they offered any guarantee that the spirit in the bottle comes by its dark amber colour honestly. But if it tastes good that’s all that matters. Let’s see.
Mortlach 14, Alexander’s Way (43.4%; from a friend’s bottle)
Nose: Not a whole lot happening on the nose at first. Some dried orange peel, some oak, some leafy notes—all rather anonymous. The orange peel expands and picks up some sweetness as it sits but it’s all a bit thin. A couple of drops of water and the orange is emphasized further.
Palate: Comes in along the lines of the nose—with more toasted oak; and unfortunately this also means a thin texture; what bite there is from the oak not the alcohol. No improvement with time but on the positive side, it doesn’t fall apart either. Water pushes back the oak and pulls out more of the orange here as well. And as is sometimes the case with lower strength whiskies, it also seems to add some thickness to the texture.
Finish: Medium-long. Somewhat bitter here and nothing really to compensate for it. Leafy at the end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: As often seems to be the way with travel retail exclusives these days, this seems like a single malt aimed at a blend drinker. It doesn’t have any of Mortlach’s usually idiosyncratic character, which is ironic given that it is named for the man who came up with the distillation regime that is responsible for a good chunk of it. The sherry character is quite muted and it’s likely that a strong artificial tan may be responsible for both the bitterness and the dark amber colour of a fairly weak whisky. It’s drinkable enough but I’d rather drink Johnnie Walker Black, frankly. That said, water does improve it on all fronts and if you have a bottle I’d recommend adding a few drops.
Rating: 82 points. (Pulled up by water.)
Thanks to Arjendu for the sample!