Spirits company Diageo – makers of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Tanqueray, among others – first announced the resurrection of single malt whisky brand Mortlach in 2014; Diageo will officially be bringing in to Singapore three Mortlach expressions in the Rare Old, 18-year-old and 25-year-old aimed at the global travel and the luxury and connoisseur segment.
Mortlach is primarily distilled as a key component to be blended in Johnnie Walker bottlings, and Mortlach single malts have only been commercially available in very limited runs – think the Managers’ Dram Series of 2002, the Managers’ Choice Series of 2009 – without a proper core range. The move by Diageo to finally allow Speyside-based Mortlach its own limelight is likely to signify an admission of changing market preferences and a growing worldwide appreciation for premium single malt whiskies.
Described by whisky connoisseurs as the “Beast of Dufftown”, its intensely powerful flavours is attributed to its rather unique but complicated 2.81 distillation process.
Mortlach’s 2.81 distillation process: a simple(-esque) explanation.
Mortlach’s 2.81 distillation process was first instituted by Alexander Cowie in 1896. Unlike many other distilleries, Mortlach’s six stills – three wash stills and three spirit stills – are of varying shapes and sizes which work rather independently from each other. The best way to get some form of consistency, Cowie must have thought, was to combine the three distillates from the different spirit stills and blend them into its unique house style.
The first of the three is a moderately malty distillate acquired from the pairing of wash still no. 3 and spirit still no. 3.
The second is a lighter fruity distillate that comes out of spirit still no. 2 distilled from the lighter half of the low wine that comes from wash stills no. 1 and no. 2, along with the heavier half of the low wine that is run through spirit still no. 2 once, and then run through a second time along with the tails from wash stills no. 1 and no. 2.
The third final one is a robust and rich distillate that comes from spirit still no. 1 (specially named “Wee Witchie”), which takes the tails from two prior distillations and runs them through Wee Witchie.
This process, which is more than a double distillation yet not quite a triple distillation, has been precisely calculated to be at 2.81.
Reviving the Beast
“The richness and authenticity of Mortlach’s heritage, along with its extraordinarily distinct flavour, is what really sets it apart”, shares Mortlach global brand ambassador for Mortlach and Scotch whisky expert Georgie Bell, who was in Singapore for the official launch. “Dating back almost 200 years, it embodies the brave vision of its entrepreneurial founders, the Scottish civil engineer George Cowie and his son Dr. Alexander Cowie. They, like other likeminded Victorian ‘makers’ of that golden age, are responsible for creating the unique and astonishingly complex process of 2.81 distillation that characterises the richly flavoured whisky we know today,” she adds.
Diageo is launching three Mortlach expressions in the Rare Old, 18-year-old and 25-year-old. Missing from the local lineup is the Mortlach Special Strength, set aside for the travel retail segment (available at London Heathrow Airport and Dubai International Airport).
“We’re delighted to bring Mortlach, one of the most prestigious and sought out single malts in Scotland, to Singapore. Consumers here are becoming increasingly discerning and knowledgeable about single malt whisky, and we’re excited to be able to introduce them to this long-revered and unique whisky,” says Apurvi Sheth, Managing Director Emerging Markets and Joint Ventures South-East Asia, Diageo.
“With the launch of these three new expressions in Singapore, each beautifully powerful and complex in their own way, Mortlach can finally take up its rightful position as one of the finest premium single malts in the world and be enjoyed by more than just a handful of privileged connoisseurs,” adds Bell, who has the rather envious task of travelling the world nine months of the year introducing the scotch brand to whisky lovers.
The new Mortlach expressions retail at S$108 for the Rare Old, S$360 for the 18-Year-Old and S$1,200 for the 25-Year-Old and are sold at Whisky World, and distributed by Singapore Beverages Pte Ltd.
Official Tasting Notes
A complex and bold Mortlach with the exquisite balance of sweetness and dryness for which the distillery is renowned. A superbly structured and well-balanced whisky in which stylish fruit and floral notes on the nose introduce a rich, complex, energetic palate and a pleasantly drying finish.
18 Year Old
A very compelling, moreish and appetising Mortlach for those who like their whiskies robust; best enjoyed straight. Astonishingly complex throughout and characterised by a fine interplay of meaty notes, malty sweetness and balancing acidity.
25 Year Old
A multi-faceted Mortlach that is all full-strength, full-on impact, with an intriguing mix of elegance and power. Complex throughout and very moreish: a big and chewy dram with high complexity, mixing roasting spices and an almost animal intensity with dense layers of decadent sweetness.