A week of Mortlach reviews began on Monday with a 10 yo bourbon cask bottled by Signatory and continued on Wednesday with a 12 yo sherry cask bottled by Sovereign for K&L. It concludes today with a 20 yo bottled by Gordon & MacPhail from a refill sherry hogshead. As I’ve said before, Mortlach usually shows its best side in the context of sherry maturation and this week’s reviews bear that out. Will a refill sherry cask be as good of a frame for Mortlach’s spirit as the darker 12 yo sherry cask was? If the cask was relatively spent then the extra eight years of maturation may not mean much in terms of imparting sherry character. In any event, I think the point I would make is that what we think of when we think of Mortlach’s “distillery character” is not just the character of the spirit as produced through distillation but also the character of that spirit as transformed through sherry cask maturation—see here for a post from several years ago that goes into this idea of “distillery character” at more length. At any rate, it’s interesting to try a distillery’s spirit from three different types of oak in close juxtaposition. Let’s see how this goes.
Mortlach 20, 2000 (58.1%; Gordon & Macphail; refill sherry hogshead 9473; from a bottle split)
Nose: A very nice mix of malt, cereals, citrus (between orange and lemon) and a bit of dusty oak. Not very sherry-forward at first and nor is it very Mortlach but I like it. More of the lemon (sweeter now) and more of the oak on the second and third sniffs and then there’s suddenly quite a bit of musky fruit (over-ripe pear and apple). Continues in this vein. A few drops of water push the oak back a bit and pull out lemon curd and some wood glue.
Palate: Comes in as indicated by the nose with a touch more oak from the get-go and the fruit expanding as I swallow. Hot but approachable at full strength with a mouth-coating texture. The fruit is more intense here too on the second sip. A bit sweeter with time but not much other change. Okay, let’s add water. Ah, it pushes the oak back here as well and emphasizes the lemon—more of a baked situation here (glazed lemon bars)—and adds some apple sauce.
Finish: Long. The fruit crests with lemon zest and then fades with the oak and some white pepper coming to the fore. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Blind, I would have not picked this as a Mortlach. I would have guessed Glenburgie, Glen Keith or Strathisla or possibly even Glenlivet. And so I’ll refer you back to the point about distillery character above. Anyway, even if this does not seem “very Mortlach” to me, I do like it a lot.
Rating: 87 points.