Wednesday 30 December 2020

Mortlach 16 and "Meats with the Beast" [Tasted #508]

Mortlach is a whisky that's seen a few different guises in recent years. Originally (and still) prized by blenders, and used as a key component in Johnnie Walker, the "2.81 distilled" whisky rose to prominence amongst whisky lovers in the 1990s via Diageo's Rare Malts and Flora & Fauna series - the latter showcasing a 16yo Mortlach which is still much loved (and increasingly sought after) today. 

Mortlach had always been considered a bold whisky for a Speysider (dubbed "The Beast of Dufftown" by Dave Broom for its robust, rich and meaty characteristic), but in a rare mis-step in 2014, attempts to market Mortlach as a luxury / up-market malt saw it bottled in 500mL format (in a range including a NAS) and promoted heavily in travel retail. Whisky lovers were quick to turn on the series, and it's fair to say it probably didn't enjoy the success that had been envisaged. The series was scrapped, and in 2018 a new series emerged, with a core range consisting of a 12, 16 (this bottle) and 20 year old - mercifully, back in 700mL / 750mL format.

Scarred a little from the 2014 series (and with only one bottle of F&F left), I hadn't tried much Mortlach of late, so it was a pleasant surprise when MHDHK kindly sent me a bottle of the latest 16yo ("Distiller's Dram"), out of the blue.

Sherried, but said to be less-so than the Flora & Fauna 16yo, I was keen to see how this held up, and if it could "stand on its own" - and perhaps even capture a new generation of whisky drinkers.

Mortlach 16 "Distiller's Dram" (43.4% ABV, 16yo, Speyside, Scotland, $790HKD / £74.85 / $132AUD)
Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: A slight citric / orange "dustiness" at first, followed by some big barbecued meat notes then flamed orange peel

Palate: Sweeter than the nose suggests - sweet BBQ sauce, molasses, and barbecued ribs. The sherry notes are there, but they feel on the lighter side. There's also some sherbet and oak. It's not super complex, but it's tasty.

Finish: Medium to long in length, with spiced apple cider notes and residual oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  89/100

So in conclusion, a different dram to the Flora & Fauna, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. Fairly priced (especially in this 750mL format) and definitely worth a look if you’re after an OB Speysider with a bit more “oomph”. 

To celebrate the Mortlach range, the distillery has teamed up with Grand Hyatt Steakhouse HK for a "#MeatswiththeBeast" promotion, whereby 3 special dishes have been chosen to match the core Mortlach range (12yo, 16yo, 20yo), as follows:
  • Mortlach 12-Year-Old (The Wee Witchie) x House smoked salmon
  • Mortlach 16-Year-Old (Distiller's Dram) x USDA Prime beef tenderloin
  • Mortlach 20-Year-Old (Cowie's Blue Seal) x Sticky date pudding
Per the press release:
"We are delighted to partner with Grand Hyatt Steakhouse. It is a perfect marriage between the finest meats and The Beast of Dufftown, complimenting each other on the rich flavour and characters. Customers can experience exceptional meaty and bold flavour from the brand's signature 2.81 distilling process." Said Ms Crystal Chan, Brand Manager of Diageo Brands.

"We are very proud of the Meats with the Beast menu, which is a co-creation between our culinary team and Mortlach Single Malt Scotch whiskies. It showcases our unrelenting pursuit of bold classic flavours and perfect execution. The resulting menu is simple, confident and sophisticated." Said Marc Benkoe, newly appointed Head Chef who will take the helm of the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse kitchen starting from December"

Whilst the restaurant is currently closed due to the COVID-19 situation, the promotion is expected to re-commence once the restaurant opens again. 

As a final side-note, big props to Diageo too for the sensible packaging. Check out the Instagram story grab below for a comparison with another whisky which arrived on the same day!


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