Mortlach single malt whisky is not exactly new. In 2016, Diageo had already launched the first ever official range of Mortlach single malt whiskies after years of it being one of the conglomerate’s best kept secrets.
Now, I have to admit that I was not really that impressed with that initial Mortlach range that was released two years ago, which consisted of Mortlach Rare Old, Mortlach 18 Year Old, and Mortlach 25 Year Old.
This was mainly due to the fact that I had tried independent bottlings of Mortlach before, and that initial range – with its fruitier and lighter notes – was just a little too different from what I expected from a Mortlach whisky, which is typically bold, rich and quite muscular in nature. It was as if the Beast was being kept on a leash.
Two years later, however, those three expressions are no more, replaced by a whole new range that comprises the Mortlach 12 Years Old, 16 Years Old and 20 Years Old. After trying the new range at a recent launch at Curious Kitchen in Petaling Jaya, I’m happy to report that the Beast has finally been let out of the cage.
Founded in 1823, Mortlach was the first legal distillery in Dufftown, but only started to come into its own in 1853, when a man named George Cowie joined the distillery.
Cowie’s son, Alexander and renowned distillery architect Charles Doig were the ones who developed the distillery’s unique 2.81 distillation process in 1896.
the 100% sherry-cask Mortlach 20YO a.k.a “Cowie’s Blue Seal” (43.4% ABV).
Mortlach has a unique collection of six stills, which are of different shapes and sizes (unlike most distilleries, which tend to have stills of the same size and shape) and combine into three distinct distilling streams that produce different new make spirits.
The ‘2.81’ distillation comes from the precision that goes into creating the final spirit that goes into the cask – a technical process that has to do with the precise cut of the spirit they take from every run.
The result is a thick, viscous new-make spirit that has been called “meaty and savoury” – a description that comes across really well in the new range.
First up is the Mortlach 12YO (43.4% ABV), also known as “The Wee Witchie”, which was matured in ex-bourbon- and ex-sherry casks. Surprisingly, despite it being the lowest age statement among the three, this was arguably my favourite of the lot. It has a rich, fruity yet robust nose and entry, which gives way to a rich, chocolatey, velvety palate that still packs quite a robust punch and a slight spicy finish. Now THIS is a real beast of a dram.
A blend of whiskies matured in first-fill and refill ex-sherry casks, the Mortlach 16YO (43.4% ABV), or “The Distiller’s Dram”, is another step up from the previous range, with spicy, fruity notes on the nose, and layers of dark fruits and berries on the palate. Piece of advice: if you’re familiar with a certain 16-year-old Flora & Fauna Mortlach bottling, it might be wise to avoid comparing this new expression with that famously popular discontinued bottling, just to avoid disappointment.
Last, but not least, is the 100% sherry-cask Mortlach 20YO a.k.a “Cowie’s Blue Seal” (43.4% ABV), which was surprisingly sweet and fruity, carrying over the characteristics of the 12YO, but with more subtlety and light elegance.
Personally, I’m happy to see Mortlach finally realising its potential with these new expressions. At last, we have a Mortlach range that is approachable (and affordable), but still manages to live up to the name “Beast of Dufftown”.
Michael Cheang would really like to see more malts from Mortlach. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page or follow him on Instagram. [...]
A large number of rare and collectable whiskies, sometimes sold for hundreds of thousand of pounds, are likely to be fake, researchers have found. — Reuters pic
EDINBURGH, Dec 20 — A large number of rare and collectable whiskies, sometimes sold for hundreds of thousand of pounds, are likely to be fake, researchers have found.Investigators from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre used carbon-dating to sample 55 bottles of Scotch bought through the secondary market, discovering that 21 were outright fakes or not distilled in the year declared, Rare Whisky 101, which commissioned the study, said.The sale of rare collectors’ whiskies is more and more popular, and this October a 60-year-old The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 was sold for record £848,750 (RM4.52 million) at auction.Researchers look at minute levels of radiocarbon absorbed by the barley used to make Scotland’s flagship export to determine its age. Those with higher levels of radiocarbon must have been distilled prior to the 1950s nuclear era, they said.The accuracy of the process is such that they can pinpoint likely distillation years to within a two to three-year period after the 1950s, and a wider period before.“It is our genuine belief that every purported pre-1900 — and in many cases much later — bottle should be assumed fake until proven genuine, certainly if the bottle claims to be a single malt Scotch whisky,” said David Robertson, co-founder of Rare Whisky 101, which publishes insight and intelligence for whisky collectors.“This problem will only grow as prices for rare bottles continue to increase,” he added. — Reuters [...]
White Walker by Johnnie Walker features a surprise message when frozen. — Picture courtesy of Johnnie Walker Malaysia
PETALING JAYA, Nov 6 — If you love watching Game of Thrones with a whisky in hand, Johnnie Walker’s latest offering might tickle your fancy.To commemorate the final season of the popular HBO series, the Diageo-owned Scotch whisky brand has launched White Walker, a limited-edition blended scotch whisky inspired by Westeros’ most feared characters.They even made a quick pit stop to Malay Mail’s office to introduce the new scotch. View this post on Instagram Day 2: 1st invation done. In transit for the 2nd one. #nightking #nightkinggoesplaces #nightventures #GOT #gameofthrones #jwwhitewalker #johnniewalkermy #winterishere #cosplay #cosplayer #nightkingphA post shared by Xidge - Cosplay (@xidgevicious) onOct 31, 2018 at 9:51pm PDTCollectors will be excited by the whisky’s packaging which reveals an icy glow of white and blue engravement with the words “Winter is Here” when frozen, inspired by the Night King and created with thermochromic ink.Whisky specialist and blender George Harper used blends of single malts from one of Scotland’s northern distilleries, Cardhu and Clynelish, known for their harsh winters.In line with its sub-zero theme, the tipple is recommended to be enjoyed straight from the freezer. View this post on Instagram Winter is here. Presenting White Walker by Johnnie Walker - for those who keep walking. #JohnnieWalker #JWWhiteWalker #GameOfThronesA post shared by Johnnie Walker (@johnniewalkermy) onOct 8, 2018 at 12:37am PDTThe blend boasts notes of caramelised sugar and vanilla, fresh red berries with a hint of orchard fruit and has a 41.7 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV).White Walker by Johnnie Walker is available now for a limited time in selected global markets. It is priced at RM330 on online liquor store StayThirsty. [...]
John Walker Masters’ Edition — Picture courtesy of PRNewsFoto/Johnnie Walker
LONDON, Oct 19 — Johnnie Walker has released their first 50-year-old Scotch Whisky made from a blend of six whiskies all of which have been aged for a minimum of half a century. But as the saying goes, time is money, as each bottle will retail for US$25,000 (RM104,155). Only 100 bottles of the John Walker Masters’ Edition are being released, presented in individually numbered, double-cased black crystal Baccarat decanters that come packaged in an elegant, wooden box designed by cabinet maker to The Queen, NEJ Stevenson. The triple-matured Scotch whisky was made from some of the oldest available stocks within the Johnnie Walker family, including single malt whiskies from distilleries which have long closed their doors. Finished in small batches in a marrying cask made of 100-year-old oak staves, the flavours of the Scotch whisky are said to reveal themselves slowly on the palate. “Each drop of this whisky has been hand-selected from some of the most valuable and precious casks of malt and grain whiskies to be found in our reserves,” said Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge in a statement. Tasting notes describe blackcurrants and citrus giving way to rich, creamy, dark chocolate and a long, gentle warming finish of menthol and smokiness. The limited-edition bottles will be made available in limited, selected markets, at a retail price of US$25,000. One bottle will be auctioned at Bonhams, Hong Kong next year. — AFP-Relaxnews [...]
Last time round, I explored the notion of an unpeated Islay whisky with Bunnahabhain. This week, we go the other extreme with arguably the most heavily peated Islay whisky range ever produced – Bruichladdich’s Octomore.
While most Islay distilleries like Arbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin pride themselves on producing heavily peated whiskies, when it comes to actual peat levels in the whisky, the Octomore series has them beat.
Created by former Bruichladdich master distiller Jim McEwan to prove that a whisky can be heavily peated and still taste good, the Octomore series includes some of the most heavily-peated whiskies in the world. It is named after the Octomore Farm on Islay, which is the source of the spring water Bruichladdich uses in its whisky production.
Just how heavily peated is Octomore? Well, consider this: Bruichladdich’s own Port Charlotte expression is described as “Heavily Peated” at 40ppm (phenol parts per million, a measure of how much peat there is in a whisky). Now, compare that to the Octomore 08.1, which boasts a super smoky 167ppm!
Eight series of Octomore have been released to date, and Bruichladdich Asia-Pacific Brand Ambassador Chloe Wood was in town recently to conduct a special tasting of all four of the current Octomore 08 series side by side for members of whisky community Dram Full Malaysia.
Bruichladdich’s Octomore range of super heavily peated whiskies.
The flagship of the Octomore 8 series and the most easily available among the four. Distilled from 100% Scottish barley, the whisky was matured for eight years in first-fill American oak casks that come from American distilleries Buffalo Trace, Clermont Springs, Four Roses, Heaven Hill and Jack Daniels.
Containing 59.3% ABV, the whisky acts as sort of a gateway to the rest of the range. The nose is actually quite mild, considering the high peat level, with a subtle, slight smokiness in the air and a little vanilla sweetness as well.
On the palate, the relative youngness of the whisky stands out a little, with a strong grassy sweetness upon entry, which gives way to more mellow melon, citrus and marzipan flavours. If you’ve never had an Octomore before, this should help ease you into the range.
Only available in travel retail, this eight-year-old whisky spent its first six years in three different second-fill wine casks – French Mourvedre red wine, Austrian sweet wines; and French Sauternes dessert wines from Bordeaux. After six years, the whisky is transferred into fresh Italian Amarone casks for another two years before bottling.
Also containing 167ppm with 58.4% ABV, the red wine influences impart a sweeter nose to this whisky compared to the 08.1. In fact, the gentle peat aromas are almost drowned out by the sweetness, though you still get a whiff of it every now and then.
On the palate that sweetness is even more apparent, with fruity berry jam, floral, candy notes, and a finish that combines a hint of tannins with that familiar bitter Octomore smokiness.
Of the four, this arguably departed the most from the typical Octomore profile, though that peaty finish dispels any illusion that this was anything other than a super heavily peated whisky.
The Octomore 08.3 is made from 100% Islay barley.
Octomore 08.3 Islay Barley
Its bright bottle standing out among the other Octomores’ sleek black bottles, the 08.3 is the only one that uses 100% Islay-produced barley harvested from Octomore Farm. It also stands out among all the other Octomore releases to date – with a whopping 309.1ppm, it is the most highly peated Octomore ever (the previous record-holder was the Octomore 06.3, which had 258ppm).
Don’t let its five years of age fool you though, this is one monster of a whisky, and I’m not just referring to its impressive 61.2% ABV.
Unlike the previous 08.1 and 08.2, the smoke on this whisky is immediately apparent. But it’s not a powerful, intense kind of smoke, more like an elegant, deep, smouldering smoke that gently wafts around your nose, before settling at the back of your senses, enveloping your taste buds in a warm, sensual, velvety shroud. 56% matured in first-fill Bourbon casks, with the remaining 44% aged in ex-Paulliac, Ventoux, Rhone and Burgundy casks, there is a wonderful dash of sweetness on the entry, which expands into vanilla, nuttiness and dark chocolates. And all the while, that shroud of peat just lingers at the back of your palate, adding another layer of bitter smokiness to it all.
Made using 100% Scottish barley as always, this 170ppm eight-year-old embodies the experimental nature of the Octomore range. This expression is matured in virgin oak barrels (which have never been “seasoned” with any spirit before), which can be tricky, as the raw wood might impart flavours that are too intense or too woody to suit the spirit.
Thus, head distiller Adam Hannett had to maintain a delicate balance in the 08.4 – only 20% of the expression was fully matured for eight years in virgin oak, while the remaining 80% was aged in first-fill ex-Bourbon American oak casks before being transferred into the European virgin oak that had previously held Octomore 07.4.
The result is an Octomore that is quite different from the previous three. In fact, I personally felt that this was the expression where you could really taste the new-make spirit that goes into the Octomore. The younger qualities of the whisky stands out a lot more here than in the other three, with a sharp but sweet grassiness and a much more prominent and intense peat nose.
For inquiries on Octomore and which expression is available in Malaysia, visit Single And Available Whisky Shop.
Michael Cheang hopes he doesn’t have to wait till October for more Octomore. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page or follow him on Instagram. [...]