You don’t have to look far to find ridiculousness in 2019 – in all of its varied forms. Just a few days ago whilst passing through travel retail I witnessed dozens of eager travellers lapping up stories of Game of Thrones whisky ‘exclusivity’, ‘limited editions’ and ‘investments’…. none the wiser to the thousands upon thousands of bottles being held back for an imminent ‘release two’, nor what’s been going on at Scotch Whisky Auctions this month. Honestly, I love seeing greedy bastards getting burnt. Just next door to the behemothic Westeros-themed display sat the revitalised Mortlach range – empty of attention, barely a glace of interest aimed in its direction.
It’s easy to forget quite how big the global spirits market truly is. I’m not talking about the budding expansion of distilleries across the world – or even of the growing interest for all things booze-based. But, the international drinks market is both highly complex and highly interconnected. Taken in isolation, small changes at a small distillery can make huge impacts to both operating costs and profits. At large, multinational companies, whisky, single malt, or even the output of one individual distillery is but a small cog. Far from inconsiderable, but still part of a much large machine. Over the years, Diageo has shown that they’re quite willing to take their machine to pieces and attempt to reassemble it – sometimes with a few nuts and bolts left over.
The whisky produced at Dufftown distillery Mortlach has long been desired by blenders as a core constituent malt within their blends. This is often attributed to Mortlach’s naturally heavy body, that provides both solid base-flavour and texture as well as an ideal spirit for sherry cask maturation. This inherent ‘weight’ is a product of the distillery’s unusual and complex distillation regime which involves utilisting two sets of wash and spirit stills out of tandem (splitting the run unequally after the first distillations), whilst still operating a third pair of stills as one would normally expect. The resultant spirit ends up being distilled 2.81 times.
The Highlander Inn in Craiagellachie is run by whisky master Tatsuya Minagawa, who was born in Japan, but a resident in Speyside for many years. Tatsuya worked in the Highlander from 2005 – 2012, having previous been at the neighbouring Quaich Bar housed in the Craigellachie Hotel. But, it wasn’t long until the Highlander called him once again, and he returned in 2015, only this time as the owner. He bought the famous whisky ‘hotspot’ from Duncan Elphick who was previously the General Manager of the Craigellachie Hotel (the two venues seem tied by more than just their proximity), making it his own, but maintaining its ambience as a home away from home.
Gordon & MacPhail seemingly have near endless stocks of Mortlach in their warehouse – they’ve released 22 expressions in the last 3 years alone, and somewhere around 170 in total (or at least since Internet records began). Included in this haul are some seriously old whiskies – 70 and 75 year olds from their ‘Generations’ crystal decanter series (a snip at a little under £30K a bottle!). Mortlach is one of only a few whiskies that can subjected to an incredibly long maturation regime and still live to tell the tale – there are not many spirits robust enough in character and composition to stand up to such a long time in a barrel without becoming little more than oak juice.
No messing for this 12 year old Morlach – just a refill ex-bourbon barrel since October of 2005. Spicy & Dry profile.
A 15 year old Mortlach that’s spent 14 years in a ex-Bourbon hogshead before being reracked into 1st fill Pedro Ximenez for an additional year of finishing. One of 223 bottles. Sweet, Fruity & Mellow profile.
This Mortlach had been matured for 14 of its years in a an ex-bourbon hogshead before being re-casked into a 1st first fill ex-moscatel hogshead for a short finishing period. Sweet, Fruity & Mellow profile.
31 year old Mortlach that spent 28 year in an ex-bourbon hogshead before being transferred into a 2nd fill Moscatel barrique for a decent length of finishing period. Bottled at 56.2% ABV and with an initial RRP of £315.
There are times in life when a metaphorical F5 button needs to be struck. A break. A change. A refresh. As someone who’s job(s) require him to spend much of his waking life writing things – I.E. stuck behind a computer screen – the last six months have in many ways seemed suspended in time. I’m *still* behind said computer screen, only now there are far fewer methods for escape. Whisky, and my continued association with it has provided even more of a much-needed solace this year as it has in years gone by – but equally, sometimes a respite and a breather still occasionally feel required. Can there be too much of a good thing?
In 2014 Diageo charted a new course for one of its lesser known distilleries. A rebranding, repositioning and remarketing that would earn widespread disdain from the enthusiast community and end up being termed ‘Mortlachisation’. Now in 2018, it seems we are soon to witness the next iteration from this distillery. A trio of new Mortlach expressions (12 year old ‘The Wee Witchie’, 16 year old ‘Distiller’s Dram’ and 20 year old ‘Cowie’s Blue Steel’) have been spotted on the TTB database.
Door number 22 of the 2018 Boutique-y Advent calendar takes us over to Dufftown in Speyside – complete with a cartoon monster wreaking havoc on the local population. The whisky produced at Mortlach – nicknamed ‘The Beast of Dufftown’ has long been desired by blenders as a core constituent malt within their blends. This is often attributed to Mortlach’s naturally heavy body, that provides both solid base-flavour and texture as well as an ideal spirit for sherry cask maturation.