Worthy Whiskies – Mortlach 49%

Our Whisky Ladies September 2017 Sunday Sundowner began with a Mortlach. Til date, most Mortlach’s I’ve sampled were independent bottles such as the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s 76.131 “Totally Tastylicious” or two Gordon & MacPhail offerings – the 15 year  and 37 year. All of these were simply superb!

However this was my very first official bottling – picked up by one of our Whisky Ladies from Duty  Free. What did we find?

Mortlach NAS 49%

  • Nose – Restrained, very sweet and fruity with some floral elements like lavender and herbs, reminds one of early summer, some honey, wildflower and yet you need to work at it to catch all the nuances, the range of aromas do not come easily
  • Palate – Surprising after such a subtle nose, it initially hits with alcohol on the palate, then continues in the fruity vein with apricot. The next sip was quite woody on the edge of being harsh. Further sips did not reveal anything significant.
  • Finish – A smokey finish with spice and again apricots
  • Water – Helps mellow it down – bringing out honey raisins on the nose and, after it settles down, reduces the punchy brashness of the palate, revealing a spicy bitter dimension

This is one that absolutely smell sweeter and more nuanced than it tastes. It also falls into the category of NAS fare (since dubbed “NASPy“) which has nothing specifically very wrong, but also limited distinguishing features to make you stand up and pay attention.

If I was to be perfectly honest – it disappointed.

Simply as it is quite different than earlier Mortlach’s sampled which truly did live up to labels like “Totally Tastylicious” or the full-bodied, meaty and multi-layered Gordon & MacPhails.

So what do the Mortlach folks have to say on the box about this whisky?

A clear amber colour introduces complex aromas of ripe red apple and berry fruit underpinned by a supply savouriness. Which all evolves as a rich ice cream sweetness, with creamy vanilla on the intense palate fresh blueberries and black cherries soon meet sweet, smooth honey. Then savoury spices and late wood. The finish is long and richly rounded.

This Mortlach was opened in September 2017 fresh for the Ladies to sample and was last spotted at an airport sporting a $120 price tag for a 50cl bottle. More than a tad high for what it delivered…

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Worthy Whiskies” Sunday Sundowner?

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Worthy Whiskies – Mortlach, Arran Amarone, Lochside, Aultmore

We’ve had several attempts to hold a Whisky Ladies evening in Versova so when I suddenly found out I would be traveling to North America and it happened to be the same night, I simply had to ensure it was a flight after our session rather than reschedule yet again!

And it was completely worth it. Having a chance to overlook the Arabian sea as the sun set is indeed a lovely backdrop to sampling whiskies in wonderful company.

Particularly when this was a “Worthy Whiskies” session which brought together:

Tasting this time had a bit of a twist – the Lochside and Aultmore were previously sampled with another set of fellow whisky aficionados. The Whisky Ladies reaction to the Lochside was very much in synch, so I combined the tasting notes. Whereas the response to the Aultmore was curiously divided… prompting a completely different post

Just click on the links and read on… reactions and opinions welcome!

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Dream Drams – Mortlach 1976 43% (Gordon + MacPhail)

Our Dream Drams evening started with this mighty Mortlach – a mere 37 year old from Gordon & MacPhail.

Mortlach 37 year (1976/2013) 43% G&MP

What did we think? Initially the following…

  • Nose – Beautifully restrained, old style with lovely cereals, wet leaf, sultanas, black pepper
  • Palate – Meaty – dare I say beefy? Full-bodied, bacon, soya, oily, fabulous feel on the tongue, hint of peppers and spice
  • Finish – Drops off quite quickly, then comes back… it is very much there but quite subdued with a hint of coriander

What made this whisky really worth paying attention to was the way each sip gave something different. As we kept chatting it revealed different dimensions… as it opened up, its character shifted…

  • Nose – Cloves, mint, basil… increasingly herbal
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, still chewy with a dash of spice
  • Finish – Astounding! We almost wondered if this was the same whisky! Why? The finish was absolutely fabulous. A long gorgeous pleasing finish

The more time we spent, the more we enjoyed. It was well-balanced, with many layers… Returning after some time, brought a lovely powdered vanilla and sugar to the nose, simply delicious on the palate and that truly fabulous finish. Perhaps even with the slightest hint of coal fired smoke?

Overall its character was complex yet surprisingly light.

Talk turned to how for whiskies with such long maturation, being in a 2nd fill cask becomes an advantage as it slowly imparts character… however the balance in this case was achieved, the results were superb.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Sultanas, vanilla and cracked black pepper.
  • Palate: The sultanas become raisins and the black pepper becomes smokier finally there is a nutty quality that emerges with water.
  • Finish: The finish is fruity with notes of figs and dates with a little ground pepper to round it off.
  • Overall: A vibrant and fruity Mortlach.

Mortlach 1976 Bottling Note

Mortlach was where William Grant of Glenfiddich and Balvenie fame started his career in whisky. To this day it remains a firm favourite of many whisky fans so it is no wonder that Gordon and MacPhail had to bottle this one.

Our “Dream Drams” evening with Krishna Nakula included:

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SMWS “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year 57.8%

Next in our Bombay Malt & Cigar Scotch Malt Whisky Society evening was “Totally Tastylicious” from Speyside. Naturally it was a full cask strength with the distillery not directly disclosed – known only through its code number.

So did we find it totally tasty??

76.131 “Totally Tastylicious” 15 year (30 Sep 2001) 57.8% 268 bottles

  • Nose – Lots of ripe fruits, figs, citrus lime, mandarin orange, black peppercorns, pine, vanilla and cream, cherries, sweet spices, berries, toffee, egg nog, oak…
  • Palate – Salt water taffy, toffee, coffee and caramel, rich fruits and full-bodied
  • Finish – Spice, nice and long – delicious!
  • Water – Not even tempted to try

The nose was fabulous – it simply kept evolving, shifting and revealing different elements. Initially came across as a juicy sherry, it kept morphing eventually settling into a sweet toffee. And the promise on the nose followed through on the palate – really quite gorgeous which continued to a superb finish.

In short, we found this whisky rather wonderful. And yes… tasty!

Our guess? Perhaps an Aberlour but… when we found out it was Mortlach, made perfect sense!

Here is what the SMWS folks have to say:

The nose had truckloads of wood and fruit – we identified orange boxes, orange muscat, Madeira molasses cake, Demerara and dried fruits (figs, dates) on polished wood. The palate was just Wow! – juicy, chewy, tangy, fruity, woody and winey – wine gums, plum stones, grilled almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon – and a vigorous nod towards Calvados; liquorice Imps to finish.

Water enhanced the complexity of the nose – orange chocolates, punch-bowl, empty cigar tubes, herbal hedgerows, sherbet, pomanders… The palate – plum, Kirsch, charred wood, toasted cumin seeds – totally tastylicious.

After 14 years in ex-bourbon wood we moved this to a first-fill French oak hogshead.

DRINKING TIP: This is quite different – something to turn to when you need a change.
What else did we sample in our SMWS evening?

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BMC explores a Scotch Malt Whisky Society quartet

Once upon a time there were Bombay, Delhi and Pune chapters of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in India. I’ve certainly come across a few bottles in members homes… and rumour has it there remains stock at Indigo too.

However to have an opportunity to explore over an evening four single cask strength SMWS bottles with our Bombay Malt & Cigar Club? Bring it on!

What all did we sample in our SMWS evening?

The bottles reveal only the region, cask type, alcohol strength and in some cases the age… however for those clever enough to do a simple online search, all is revealed about the distillery codes.

As for what we thought? Tasting notes available by clicking on the links above. I should also note, the sampling order which was spot on in terms of a tasting profile progress from light to sweet to robust and peat!

And our cigar of the evening? An Edward Sahakians private vintage selection 1999. A might fine night it was indeed.

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Mortlach 15 year 43% (Gordon + MacPhail)

The downside of gallivanting off to Amsterdam last year was I missed one of our monthly tasting sessions. However as it featured whiskies from four different countries, I managed to finangle a special ‘make-up’ session.

What follows is a blend of notes from another club member and mine from the ‘extra’ evening. 

Mortlach 15 year

Mortlach 15 years 43%, Scotland, Bottled by Gordon & Macphail

  • Colour – Burnished gold
  • Nose – Oily, malty, orange, christmas cake, overripe banana
  • Palate – Dances on the tongue, dry yet somehow also with a heavy oily undertone, hint of sweetness, raisins, fruits, smoooooth
  • Finish – Finally a ‘real’ finish like it never wants to let you go! Spicy

For those not familiar with this Speyside distillery, Mortlach  is better known as an element in India’s favourite Johnnie Walker blends. Only recently (i.e. 2014) did it start to sell a range of single malts under the distillery brand with Georgie Bell aka Miss Mortlach leading the way as global brand ambassador.

The Mortlach Distillery (Mortlach.com)

The Mortlach Distillery (Mortlach.com)

By far the most interesting of the evening and a reminder to keep grabbing the Gordon & Macphail bottlings. A cross-sampling of their Mortlach and Ledaig led to speculation that while each is distinct, there is a stamp of ‘character’ that distinguishes their products. One of these days would be interesting to re-sample several Gordon & MacPhail bottles with their standard distiller editions.

The official tasting notes for this Mortlach 15 :

Without water:

  • Nose – Initially sweet, fresh and fragrant with a distinct malty nose. Citrus elements develop – fresh orange peel. Well rounded.
  • Taste – More subtle sweetness, hints of candied fruits. A rounded Sherry edge is evident and some raisin and sultana notes emerge.

With water:

  • Nose – Malty and fresh on the nose with a subtle sweetness present, defined Sherry influences and a hint of chocolate and orange linger in the background.
  • Taste – Light and very delicate with a subtle malty edge, with a rounded Sherry influence and a hint of vanilla also. Slightly mouth warming.

From so so (Glen Breton), curiosity piece but…. (Hammer Head), good (Nikka) to fab (Mortlach), I’m so glad I didn’t miss our little trip around the globe!!

Glen Breton, Hammer Head, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach

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World Tour – Hammer Head, Glen Breton, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach 15 year

One consequence of gallivanting off to Amsterdam in November is I missed our monthly tasting session. However given it featured whiskies from four different countries, I convinced our host to do a special ‘make-up’ session.

What follows is a blend of the original sessions notes from another club member and mine from last night for your reading pleasure. 

Hammer Head (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Hammer Head 23 year

Hammer Head 23 years 40.7%, Czech, Pradlo distillery

  • Colour – Pale
  • Nose – Bright fresh citrus, dry fruits, hint of bourbon
  • Palate – Mild chewy yet dry oak, a tinge of sour, lack of depth… re-tasted after 20 mins and had a flash of masala paan
  • Finish – What finish?? Really nothing much at all…

Blind tasting reactions:

  • Guessed may be around 40% as had no ‘punch’ on the tongue, age of around 10-12 years, likely not a blend
  • Declared an evening no-nonsense malt, easy on the palette

You can be forgiven for not being instantly familiar with this single malt from the Czech republic. Back in 1989, Pradlo distillery decided it was high time to make a proud Czech single malt. With only Czech barley, water from the Bohemia region, aged in 100% Czech oak, the one concession was using a hammer mill masher from Scotland, a single batch was produced. Then the Berlin wall fell and everything changed. Any further production stopped and the distillery was more or less forgotten. Til 23 years later it was ‘rediscovered’ and commerce took over with a decision to bottle the mystery malt.

The result? A curiosity piece, great story and slice of history more than a memorable malt.

Glen Breton

Glen Breton 10 year

Glen Breton 10 years 43%, Canada, Glenora distillery

  • Colour – Light pale yellow
  • Nose – Medicinal, lemon fusion
  • Palate – 1st impression is spice then a bitter turmeric – nothing else
  • Finish – Slightly bitter then vanishes

Coming from Canada, we’re known for Rye whiskey blends not sophisticated malts. Touted as one of only two single malt Scottish-style distilleries in Canada, it is ‘matured’ in American oak barrels. However seems much more akin to a not so great 3 year old, certainly not a 10 year! We previously sampled this disappointing offer and were reminded – do not repeat!

Nikki from the barrel

Nikki from the barrel

Nikka from the barrel, no age stated 51.4%, Japan, Nikka distillery

  • Colour – Warm wheat
  • Nose – Plum cake, fruit basket, mild citrus aroma, bold & woody yet unmistakably sweet
  • Palate – Sweet on the first sip, then slightly spicy finish, mild hint of leather and cinnamon. When returning after 20 mins – pure sweet smoothness
  • Finish – Comes out to say an exuberant ‘hello!’ with sassy spice
  • Water – Shot up the spice, but then settled

This blend reminds that sometimes it is worth playing around – in this case blended and then re-casked to further mature. Definitely worth trying but not a future purchasing priority.

 

Mortlach 15 year

Mortlach 15 year

Mortlach 15 years 43%, Scotland, Mortlach distillery, Gordon & Macphail

  • Colour – Burnished gold
  • Nose – Oily, christmas cake, overripe banana
  • Palate – Dances on the tongue, dry yet somehow also with a heavy oily undertone, hint of sweetness, smoooooth
  • Finish – Finally a ‘real’ finish like it never wants to let you go! Spicy

By far the most interesting of the evening and a reminder to keep grabbing the Gordon Macphail bottlings. A cross-sampling of the Mortlach and the Ledaig led to speculation that while each is distinct, there is a stamp of ‘character’ that distinguishes Gordon Macphail products.

Must say I’m glad I didn’t miss our little trip around the globe!

Glen Breton, Hammer Head, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach

Glen Breton, Hammer Head, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach

Other global tasting adventures include:

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