We’re back to a Hidden Spirits bottling, this time with the Beast of Dufftown: Mortlach. Founded in 1823 by James Findlater, Donald Mackintosh and Alex Gordon, probably on the site of an older illicit distillation, it is the oldest of the several distilleries located at Dufftown. They use a complicated distillation process that they advertise as 2.81 distillations, but I’ll explain that on a future article about Mortlach, and maybe after I’ve written a post about distillation for the All about whisky section. For now, let’s just say that it’s owned, like many other distilleries, by Diageo. You cannot visit it except usually during the Spirit of Speyside Festival, and it’s known for its heavy and meaty character. But I’m still, for now, on my almost everyday reviews from my advent calendar (I know, I missed a couple ones). So it’ll be a short article, let’s go directly to review the 13th dram for the calendar: a Mortlach 2002 bottled by Hidden Spirits.
Mortlach 2002 Hidden Spirits Review
Though Mortlach uses quite a lot of sherry casks, especially for its official bottlings. However, we have here a Mortlach distilled in 2002 and matured 17 years exclusively in an ex-bourbon cask. This cask MR219 gave 277 bottles when it was emptied in 2019 by Hidden Spirits. I had tried it at Whisky Live Paris in 2019 but didn’t take notes at the time, so let’s fix that today. The Italian indy bottler bottled it at cask strength, at 55.5% abv, without chill filtration nor colouring. Whilst the original retail price was around 200€, to buy a bottle now, you’ll need at least to pay 300€, some shops in Belgium and Germany even asking for almost 400€.
On the nose there’s an immediate thickness and oiliness. It is herbal but with something metallic, like copper coins maybe. There’s a citrusy fruitiness, grapefruit, lime, but also green apples and plums. There’s also quite a waxiness, and some spices (ginger, pepper).
With water, the typical meatiness of Mortlach appears, but it’s mostly wax and citrus.
Spicy and with a nice citrusy tartness at first, it moves to green apples, grapefruit, and quite some chalk. The mouthfeel is waxy and mouth-coating. There’s some kind of slight smokiness (though Mortlach is unpeated) to the palate. Pineapple, vanilla, honeycomb, and some aspirin. Floral notes too.
Reduction brings more lemon and ginger, whilst making the mouthfeel creamier.
Long, with pineapple, grapefruit, chalk and ginger lingering on for a long moment, with a nice warmth in the throat. Slightly drying after reduction.
This is quite a beautiful whisky. Mortlach’s spirit in a bourbon cask is a perfect combination, as its thick character isn’t hidden behind sulphur and meatiness. It’s the perfect balance between citrus and fruits, spices, and quite inactive wood that provided the right amount of flavours without adding woodiness and bitterness. Splendid.