Review: Mortlach 23 Year Old 1991 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (MacKillop's Choice) / by Jason Hambrey

23 Years; Sherry Cask
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Mortlach (Keith, Scotland)

Often the best whiskies from a distilllery come not as part of official bottlings from the distillery but rather from independent bottlers who buy distillate or barrels, and then age and release them. This is true often particularly for distilleries which often produce for blends, and Mortlach is one of those distilleries with magnificent independent bottlings (even, at one time, a 70 year old released by Gordon & MacPhail!).

Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 5887, distilled 1991

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Terrific woody nose, as one might expect after 23 years. Lots of brilliant spice – clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and very nice clean sherry with all the wonderful nuttiness and dried fruit that comes in. Absolutely phenomenal complexity - candied fruit (orange and cherry), apple seeds, vanilla bean, shortcake dough, custard, and some apple lifts it all up to as it plays about above all the deeper notes on the nose. And, amidst all of this, the barley comes through and isn’t lost. I could keep going…all of that comes out more easily with some water. At full strength the oiliness of the whisky comes through, and everything is presented in more of a dense fashion, particularly the spice and the oak.

The palate reveals a lot more earthiness coming from the grain than seen on the nose, and the tongue is massaged with the feel of the whisky and the gentle vanilla (perhaps a bit too poetic…but this is sensational in the mouth). Very light peat is present, and it blends in brilliantly. In drinking at 46%, it is much of a lighter dram – at cask strength it is quite a bit heavier, but not overpowering by any means. The earthiness, the sherry, dark chocolate, and the peat all find a different balance – but the malt is still terrific in a different sort of way. It shows the quality of the dram.

Apple, oak, spices, and raisin hold the finish. Tannins build and pleasantly find their place as well.

Rare old doesn’t hold up a finger to this…

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $327.