The story of Mortlach whisky

One sunny evening in May my sister and I were invited by Mortlach whisky for an exclusive tasting evening of their single malts. The room was filled with men but the whisky cocktail to start with was made by a woman and the whisky expert of the evening was a woman too. Hannah Van Ongevalle from The Pharmacy bar and Belgian Bartender of the Year made us a great 'Old fashioned and the fabulous Miss Mortlach, Georgie Bell, had us hang on her every word. We were in good company!

For many years the Mortlach whisky was used by the world's finest blends to give them body and character and was only made available as a single malt in very limited numbers. Mortlach was one of the best kept secrets among whisky lovers since 1823. Only the real aficionados could to lay their hands on a Mortlach bottle, also known as 'The beast of Dufftown'. 
Dufftown, in Scottish Speyside is the place where the distillery originated and the nickname 'the beast' comes from the unique 2.81 distilling process. You can read more about it on their website but I am sure it's one that roars!

The Sunday Times called it the most anticipated whisky launch of the last years and Mortlach remains indeed an exclusive whisky - with an exclusive price tag- but hurray, it is now more widely available in three single malts. 

The first dram we tasted from this new range of Mortlach single malts is a whisky called 'The Rare Old'.
The whisky is kept in a mixture of sherry and bourbon casks and clings to the glass in a syrupy fashion. 
I smelled rich vanilla, salted caramel and fruity notes like orange and dried apricots. The room fell silent when we took a first sip. Seconds later the flavours were still developing on the palate and cherry flavours mixed with dark chocolate appeared. This multi-layered complexity makes it a whisky to discover in stages and had us soon talking about what flavours we each were tasting. 

The next excitement of the evening came in the form of an ice cube. Not like the ones you and I have in the freezer, this was mega-ice cube! The combination whisky and ice is personal preference, some really it, some really don't. Adding water to your whisky releases the sweet top notes and when you add ice it becomes richer and thicker. The bigger your block of ice, the more base notes you will taste. 

With the big chunk of ice came an iron stamp with the Mortlach crest on it. And yes, we could stamp our own ice cube. The crest you can also find on the newly designed bottle and comes from an old label from the early 1900s. The strong shape of the bottle is inspired by Victorian architecture, honouring the golden age of engineering when Mortlach was founded. 

The following dram came from the 18 Years Old bottle. Georgie described it remarkably well like the Tom Ford of the evening. Imagine sitting in a leather Chesterfield, fireside moment and tasting flavours like good quality coffee, dark chocolate and orange spiced Christmas cake.
I loved discovering all three the whiskys but if I had to chose one, than it would be the 18 Years Old. Choosing is always something personal, but this is the whisky that threw me back to my Edinburgh years and the hotel lounge of the Balmoral hotel where I tasted my first real single malt, many moons ago!

We ended the evening with the top of the bill: the 25 Year Old. Georgie was spot on again when she made us think about what we have done in the last 25 years. That is how long this whisky has been waiting to be tasted. This is the elegant one, but one with maturity. At first you smell tobacco leaves and porcini mushroom fields but then you take a sip and the delicate smoothness starts of sweet but becomes more herbal and ends in a liquorice and creamy aroma. It is a whisky you will savour like reading a really, really good book. One you never want to end.

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