It’s unusual to use ‘muscular’ to describe a whisky’s expression, yet that is precisely what Mortlach says about its 20 Year Old Cowie’s Blue Seal spirit. Dubbed the beast of Dufftown — the Scottish town where Mortlach is produced — it seems we’ll be seeing more of Diageo’s single malt arm in the coming year. They recently released three new expressions: the 12 Year Old, 16 Year Old, and 20 Year Old. Naturally, we had our eye on the oldest of the lot.
A brief history of Mortlach sees the brand established in 1823 by father-and-son duo George and Alexander Cowie. The Mortlach distillery was, in fact, the first legal one in Dufftown — now one of the hotbeds of Speyside whisky distilling. One thing that sets the Mortlach whisky apart from its other Scotch counterparts is the 2.81 distillation process, which is responsible for its bold flavours. The standard for Scotch distillation is 2.0 — the 0.81 extra produces a gold liquid made from water through six copper stills of differing silhouettes. They’re also famed for using worm tubs, a piece of unique equipment that is responsible for the sulphuric, meaty flavours you find in the spirit.
The 20 Year Old is matured in former sherry casks, similar to its two younger siblings. But what makes it pronouncedly different from the other two is its balance of flavour and distillery character with active wood influences. While still bold and beastly, the 20 Year Old has a certain refined elegance that the 12 and 16 Year Old lack, thanks to its maturity.
On the nose, the aromas open up to a soft and pleasant mix of cocoa with tropical fruits of apricot, lychee, and pear. Upon taking the first sip of the 20 Year Old, you’ll find that the mouthfeel is soft and slightly oily with notes of syrup, caramel, and peaches. It has a certain nutty sweetness that’s perfect for those who dislike the spicier expressions of younger whiskies. Yet, it somehow still retains the robust flavour that Mortlach is so widely known for. As Mortlach’s guest brand ambassador Kabir Suharan would say: “Each bottle of Mortlach, regardless of its age, is able to ignite your senses into a world of discovery.”