Mortlach is perhaps one of Speyside's most unknown distilleries outside of anorak circles. It is the backbone of Johnnie Walker Black Label, renowned for its meaty texture and unique 2.8-times distillation, and just about impossible to find outside of independent bottlings. Although, that availability is set to improve with parent-company Diageo's recent announcement of an £18M investment in the facilities and a launch of 4 single malt expressions down the road.
Thankfully we don't need to wait for the mother ship to cast some casks in our direction, as independent bottlers Wemyss have delivered a single cask expression worth hunting. Matured in a puncheon (a cask size between a hogshead and a port pipe) of unidentified origin since 1990 and bottled in 2011, this whisky has a little something for everyone, and a whole lot of rich, sweet flavours for the Mortlach fanatics among you.
Despite the fact that we could not obtain a formal bottle picture, and in spite of the fact that the LCBO couldn't even be bothered to put up a picture of the proper label on their site, if you find a bottle bearing the label shown here, what follows is that which awaits you.
Nose: Immediately caramel candied apples, a buttery nuttiness, and polished hardwood float from the glass, dragging behind them the faintest notion of the characteristic Mortlach struck-match scent. The next wave reveals a deep doughy note fused with rich vanilla, a subtle twist of orange, and just a pinch of allspice. While all of this is going on, there is a constant mineralty lingering underneath that smells of wet slate, the kind many would know from grade school detention while writing lines on a freshly cleaned blackboard.
Palate: The ultra-silky mouthfeel opens with all of the flavours of a baked apple tart before breaking down into brown sugar, hints of red licorice, and semi-sweet orange chocolate. Soon the meaty, enjoyable sulphuric calling card of the distillery shines through revealing hints of leather and a deep, dry, almost salty note like a good char on a properly cooked steak.
Finish: Long and drying, somehow the caramelized brown sugars return while the faint red licorice detected on the palate intensifies before fading. The mineral-rich salty elements continue before being briefly overtaken by the orange chocolate, after which apples reappear on the sides of the mouth for the final few exhales.
Overall: Mortlach for the masses. Well structured from open to close, this bottle provides a wonderfully accessible bridge into the distillery's style without becoming boring to the distillery's ardent fans, There were only 677 bottles gleaned from this cask, and only 20 bottles are left in Ontario, all of which are now retailing for $118.35 which is a fair discount from the original release price of $155 a year ago. So with all of that in mind, I recommend you act fast if you wish to have a bottle of your own, as I wish I had bought two.