Feb 11, 2015

SMWS Cask 76.82 15yo...

SMWS Cask 76.82 15yo (56.7%): The last wee bottle from my SMWS welcome package is a fifteen year old Mortlach. Mortlach has been a well kept secret among malt lovers for many years and was treated almost as a cult whisky. It wasn't always an easy find among independent bottlers' line-ups and Diageo didn't have any interest to release a regular official expression except the 16yo Flora & Fauna bottling which became somewhat like a holy-grail among enthusiasts in its time. But last fall things took a sudden turn when a new Mortlach line-up targeting the luxury brand category got announced with fancy bottles and jacked up prices. Now it is even a tougher to find a Mortlach expression bottled by an independent company with a reasonable price tag. Mortlach is also known as one of the main components in Johnnie Walker Black Label. The distillery produces 3,8 million liters of alcohol each year and most of the matured whisky is used for Black Label and other Diageo blends. For me the most interesting fact about Mortlach is that it is the third distillery I am aware of using the distillation method so called "2.5" or "2.7" (or sometimes "2.8") times distillation along with Springbank and Benrinnes. They all differ in detail of practice but believe me Mortlach's process is by far the most confusing one. They run their six stills in a very unique combination. I don't want to take too much of your time here but it is quiet mind-blowing... Anyway, let's taste this fifteen year old single cask. Color: Yellow gold, lemon chiffon. Nose: Lemon bars, alfalfa sprouts and wet grass. Candle wax and salted butter. Damp black gardening soil, honeycrisp apple slices and chipboard dust. A few drops of water add cardboard boxes, bitter greens and sour cream aromas. Fresh strawberries and raspberry jam. Palate: Honeycomb wax and white pepper. Slightly salty, beautifully earthy, vegetal and grassy. Great ex-bourbon cask notes... With water it gets slightly sweeter, meatier, thicker and definitely much better: Shepherd's pie, rosemary, thyme and shallots in a stew. Green asparagus, fennel stalks and lemon grass. Finish: Long with white pepper, sea salt, damp earth and dandelion leaves. Overall: It's not that easy to find an exclusively ex-bourbon matured Mortlach but we have one here... It could easily fool me as a Clynelish in a blind tasting. I know it is not everybody's cup of tea: a little bitter, dry, salty, uneasy on the palate and very vegetal but I absolutely loved it..! I wish I had a full bottle of this whisky. I have to say again that I actually never tasted a Mortlach that I was disappointed with. I did have a few mediocre bottlings before but somehow not a very bad one.