Whenever people ask me what my favourite whisky is, I usually giving the boring answer that it depends on a lot of factors. However, when pushed I normally opt for one of Scotland’s best but little known malts – Mortlach.
Known fondly as “The Beast of Dufftown”, Mortlach was the only distillery in the village between 1823 and 1887, when Glenfiddich set up in the same area. It was bought by John Walker and Sons in 1923, and since then, has formed an important part of the Johnnie Walker blend. However, each year, roughly 2% of this output would make its way into Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range and it’s here my appreciation of the malt found its routes.
After many years fulfilling Johnnie Walker’s needs, Diageo announced in December 2013 that it was investing £30m in the distillery, building a new still house and completely revamping the range. I had mixed feels about this at the time. Yes, this fantastic distillery was finally getting the attention it deserved but this would also signal the end of Mortlach’s Flora and Fauna bottling. Would it still be the whisky I loved?
Well the answer to this, thankfully, is yes. The new range is comprised of four bottlings – 18YO, 25YO, Special Strength and Rare Old – the latter of which I’ve sampled, as it’s the range’s “entry level” (i.e. cheap) malt. The Rare Old goes through the distillery’s unique part-triple distillation process, before being matured in a mix of first-fill bourbon and sherry casks, as well as refilled and rejuvenated casks. This gives the nose a spicy and sweet flavour, with notes of cinnamon and candied orange. So far, so Mortlach. On the palate, things are a bit different. The mouthfeel is thick and oily, but it’s a lot sweeter than before. The cinnamon is also present on the palate and plays a big role right at the end too, along with nutmeg and raisins. Overall, lighter than the old school Flora and Fauna bottling, but still brimming with big flavours
And best of all, its The Whisky Exchange’s Malt of the Month, currently retailing for £47.95 a bottle. Be warned though – the new Mortlach range only comes in 500ml bottles, rather than the industry standard 700ml.