Holiday time again and you are searching for a whisky gift. Maybe for yourself or someone else. If it is someone else, you likely yearn to gift that whisky fan with an uncommon bottle of uncommon taste. Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas, and Glenfiddich are too obvious. Maybe you want to kick in a few dollars and get something really off the beaten track that is not a household name, even in a whisky household. Your search can now end. I present Mortlach 'Rare Old' for your consideration.
Mortlach is a distillery you may not know by name but may be familiar with in terms of taste. It is a single malt that for the vast majority of its history was a key component in many blended Scotch whiskies, particularly Johnnie Walker. According to the late Michael Jackson, the great pioneer of whisky criticism, Mortlach was highly sought for its' muscularity that gave structure and body to blends that would otherwise be listless.
Official single malt releases available from the distillery were scarce for a very long time. Prior to 1995 or thereabouts, independent bottlers would occasionally release a bottle, having bought stocks from the distillery and carried out their own cask management. As of late, Diageo (the owner of the brand) has made a bit of a push to promote this single malt.
This particular release from the distillery has no age statement and is not cheap. In Canada, I paid $110. Expensive in Australia too. In the US and the UK, prices are better. One Stateside reader reports this bottle can be had for $40 - $60 which is very reasonable.
Easy sherry, roses, violets, pleasant floral notes.
Thick, chewy sherry, salted milk chocolate with orange rind, hint of pomegranate, raisins and dark honey.
Fine graphite, pencil lead, malty, summer savory, za'atar
, tumble weed dry sherry and beef stock in the background.
At the last meeting of my whisky club, the Mortlach Rare Old was the winner. A close second was the Hart Brothers 17 years Port Finish Blended Malt.
Whisky Dawg Ken asked a Scotch whisky brand ambassador what single malt really impresses him other than his own distillery and he responded without missing a beat: "anything by Mortlach." I really believe Mortlach is the choice of those in the 'know.' I have enjoyed this malt before but always as a release by an independent bottler. It impressed me then and does so now. In this release, Diageo have taken care with the casks used, the blending, everything. This is fine whisky.
This whisky is rich, luxuriant and velvety on the palate. It may not be the best whisky in the world, but it beats the hell out of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, and reminds me why I love Scotch so much. Don't be hoodwinked by the marketing of the Whisky Bible. You wanna give a gift of a high quality single malt, Mortlach Rare Old is the ticket. No bite, just smooth aged whisky with great qualities the sherry fiend is sure to enjoy.
P.S. The only negative is the price. Quite high. Mortlach Rare Old price is indicative of a disturbing trend in Scotch whisky: high prices! Prices are creeping higher and higher while age statements are dropped and causing an impact on quality (see Macallan no-age-statement releases). This is not the case for all single malts (like Mortlach Rare Old), but it is a trend with other distilleries. Mortlach Rare Old is a fine single malt but the price is very much on the upper end for what you should pay. As it is the holidays I make an exception, but during the ordinary year, there is comparable value for money to be found with Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban for about about $40 less!