MacKillop's Choice

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.

Review: Scapa 22 Year Old 1991 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (MacKillop's Choice) by Jason Hambrey

22 years
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Scapa (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Highland Park’s other companion on Orkney, Scapa is part of the Ballantine’s stable. They use very long fermentation times to obtain a very fruity malt, and they use a unique Lomond still for part of their distillation - of which there are few in existence – Bruichladdich also has one.

This is a single cask from the independent bottler MacKillop's Choice.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 1211

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

On the nose: very fruity, with grape, peach, fresh apricot, apple, plum, violets, hay…I suppose fresh fruit and dried plants. Though there is some dried apricot. Old leather,

The palate is oily with a lot of dried grassy character (like hay), vanilla, chamomile, caramel, custard, caramelized peaches, and a light touch of oak on the end. There is oak lightly on the palate, but it doesn’t dominate. Very easy to drink – though I’m not sure if I would say that it is that interesting. The end has some light cedar, and some interesting tropical notes too that I can’t quite pin down in this sitting – maybe something like dried lychee? Remarkably easy at 57% - I would have guessed this to be 50% or 48% on the palate – one of the easiest 57%ers I have ever had. Nicely oily, and some good cinnamon and clove too.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very low, based on $302.