Mortlach 25, 1994 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Yesterday, I posted only my third-ever review of a Aberfeldy. Today’s whisky is from a distillery whose whisky I have far more of a familiarity with: Mortlach. Like yesterday’s Aberfeldy, this is a 25 yo single cask, also a first-fill sherry cask, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Mortlach is very well-known in sherried incarnations—the interplay of sherry oak, especially when from an European oak cask, and Mortlach’s naturally meaty profile can yield truly pleasurable results. Though, while I liked the last sherried Mortlach I reviewed quite a bit,  it wasn’t really one that displayed that character that one would think of as quintessentially Mortlach (let me once again encourage you to read my post from several years ago probing the question of “distillery character“). I have liked most sherried Mortlachs I’ve tried, however—with a couple of exceptions from K&L’s series of casks that are not really the bargains they seem. But I’m still chasing the memory of a Mortlach 13 bottled by G&M in their old Reserve series (anyone remember those bottles? cask strength, green labels?). It wasn’t a world-beater but it was a truly idiosyncratic meatily sulphurous beast. I finished that bottle a couple of years before I started the blog and, alas, do not seem to have saved a large reference sample from it as was my usual practice at the time. Anyway, let’s see if this 25 yo is in that vein or something more refined.

Mortlach 25, 1994 (55.9%; first-fill sherry butt 8181; Gordon & MacPhail; from a bottle split)

Nose: Orange peel and a bit of brine to start, and then berry sweetness to follow. On the second sniff there are savoury notes (beef stock) and some dried leaves. As it sits, a fair bit of roasted malt emerges, turning into milky cocoa as it goes; with more time still there’s some toffee. With a few drops of water the malt expands, picking up some toffee, and the savoury notes recede.

Palate: Comes in pretty much as indicated by the nose, with the malt expanding as I swallow. A bit hot at full strength; nice texture. On the second sip there’s more of the orange peel (dried) and more oak. The tannic grip of the oak mixes with dried mushrooms. Alright, let’s see what water does for it. It pushes the oak back and emphasizes the orange peel and the malt. Saltier too now.

Finish: Long. The alcohol burn lingers with the roasted malt and a bit of oak pops out as well. Bitter at the end (walnut peels). With time, the alcohol burn dissipates and more of the orange peel lingers as well. As on the palate with water. It’s less bitter now at the very end; the dried leaves from early on the nose show up.

Comments: This is on the more austere end of the sherry bomb spectrum. Which is to say, it’s not a big fruit or caramel bomb. Instead drier, earthier notes predominate. There was a little too much oak on the palate for my liking at first but time and water fixed that.

Rating: 88 points.



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