Mortlach 15 year old by Gordon & MacPhail

mortlach15GMedit.jpgGordon & MacPhail's bottling of Mortlach new make aged 15 years in refill sherry casks shows that sometimes, you can have too much of a good cask...   

Nose: Sweet with generous burnt brown sugar, raisins, and ripe red apples atop a musty, almost sulfurous, woodiness that sits heavy in the glass. No real change in profile with time in air or a splash of water.    

Palate: Medium-bodied with mouth-coating honey sweetness. Fruity notes of fig, orange, plantains are complemented by nutmeg, vanilla, and a hint of mint. Quite peppery, the woodiness remains a central feature that carries with it a considerable amount of heat to the finish. 

Finish: Warming with an aggressive dryness that forces the fruitier elements aside to make way for a woody, resonating and spicy heat. Mid-way through the long and evolving finish, the sherry flavours kick in again but they are dry, nutty and a touch sour.

Overall: An interesting malt from a distillery we rarely see in single malt form in Toronto, however I find this expression by Gordon & MacPhail to be quite closed, musty and dry. I nearly drowned my whisky with water trying to find a way to balance out not only the heat of the spirit but also the musty woodiness that serves as a screen for much of the flavour. I've let it "breathe," I've added water, I've warmed it up in hand and let it cool yet I found that it never opened up much beyond when first poured. There are some very nice elements within this malt but, on the whole, I'm disappointed with my purchase. Mortlach devotees may find this to be a nice addition to their collection but there are better sherried Speyside malts at this price in the LCBO.


Thank you for this review. I think I've seen the bottle at the LCBO and have been very curious as to its qualities. I've only had one Mortlach (some time ago at a Quaich dinner, I think the bottler was Cooper's Choice but don't quite remember) and wasn't crazy about it (too sweet and sherried for me). Again, thank you.

If you are going to critique a single malt like Mortlach and then leave an open ended comment as you did " but there are better sherried Speyside malts at this price in the LCBO" should you not back up your statement.

Frank, you're absolutely right.
I should've pointed readers in the right direction.

This Mortlach was priced at $99.95 in the LCBO.

Off the top of my head and what's reviewed on here already...

Aberlour A'Bunadh at $94.30 is both cask strength and full to the brim with sherry flavours.

Who can forget the indomitable Macallan Cask Strength? Like Christmas morning in a glass. $99.45 in the LCBO.

Finally, another cask strength beauty, Glenfarclas 105. $79.95 at the LCBO.

I agree that there are better drams for the money at the fact, I'd put the Aberlour 12 and Standard Macallan 12 ahead of this Mortlach.

I was offered a sample from Ryans bottle, so it's possible that we're sampling fomr an 'off' bottle, but I will confirm that his impressions mirror my own. Too much wood, and a sulpher note that was unpleasant at the beginning to the middle of the finish. As a weird note, my first encounter with the whisky was all popcorn on the nose...I thought I might be going crazy. That faded in subsequent tastings but was in the back ground.

To my mind, this whisky is sort of all over the place, but more haphazzardly than those excellent whiskies that take you on a journey as they evolve.

Having smelled the spirit wafting from the spirit safe at Mortlach in Dufftown, the sulphur note is intrinsic to the brand. Indeed it may be the distillery's defining characteristic.

I was able to find a sampler bottle of this G&M expression. Upon a second look months later, it's simply a challenging whisky, in my opinion. Mortlach is a meaty, suphurus beast and this dram is not for the novice whisky drinker. It deserves an honest look by those interested in a unique Speyside, however, and I'd be hard-pressed to compare it to another single malt brand.

I buy this in Calgary at Real Canadian Liquorstore (Superstore) for $59.95. At that price I think it's a fine dram, but not sure I'd happily pay $99.95 for it.

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