Mortlach has, once again, revamped its range. It has replaced the Rare Old (NAS) bottling with this new age-stated 12 year as the “entry” dram. While I do applaud the use of a 12 year malt as the entry-level bottle for a distillery’s official range, I’m not crazy about any “entry level” bottling starting at $55. But no distillery has yet asked me for pricing advice, so onward we plunge.
The “Wee Witchie” is the name of Mortlach’s small experimental pot still, and “some” of its output was included in the batch for this bottling. “Some” is one of the worst words in the English language so we don’t know if we’re talking about a literal teaspoon or if 30% of the vatting comes from The Wee Witchie. It’s kind of an irrelevant piece of information. The malt used here was distilled using Mortlach’s traditional and eccentric “2.81 times” distilling process, and was aged in a combination of ex-sherry casks in European oak, and ex-bourbon casks. I’m old enough to remember when The Balvenie using two different types of full-term casks was innovative, and now everybody’s doing it.
The malt is aged for a full 12 years and is bottled at 43.4% ABV.
Nose: Chewy toffee, rich fig jam, cashew butter. New leather. Definitely has the Mortlach “meatiness”, as well as a bevy of European oak and sherry-derived notes: specifically the dried resinous ones, not the sweet fruity ones.
Palate: Medium bodied, not quite syrupy. Indistinct. Dry, as expected, but without any of the sherry notes promised by the aroma. Cola. Very dark chocolate. That’s about it.
Finish: Medium-long. Black coffee, mildly bitter barrel char, and a continuation of the (totally devoid of fruit) notes from the palate. Fades slowly but without evolving.
With Water: Several drops of water have little effect on the aroma except perhaps muting it a bit. The palate, however, seems a bit sweeter (milk chocolate instead of dark) and shows more nuttiness and more cereal-forward malt. The finish is livelier, but has no additional notes. Water is a good idea here, but doesn’t fix the main problems.
Overall: Wut. This has a very typical sherry-matured experience on the nose that totally vanishes on the tongue and throughout the finish. The fruit – which is still there when I nose the glass – completely disappears by the time it hits my tongue. A mystery, and a bit of disaster.
It pains me to write this about one of my favorite distilleries, but I would expect something like this from an independently-bottled Mortlach out of a castaway cask that didn’t quite make the official cut. I did not expect a “failure to launch” sherried malt with an official logo on the bottle. A shame, and a disappointment. I would not pay $55 for this again.