Mortlach is one of Diageo's workhorse distilleries that produces primarily for blends. However, unlike many of their Speyside distilleries, its output has far more character and tends to be used in small amounts to provide richness to thinner malts and grain whisky. This is due both to its exceptionally complex distillation process and the fact that it is one of the few remaining distilleries to use worm tub rather than shell in tube condensers, which reduces the amount of contact the spirit has with copper. These help to give Mortlach its distinctive 'meaty' character that is likely to do an increased concentration of sulphur compounds in the spirit.
While I was in Lyon I stopped by The Whisky Lodge, which is an absolute delight of a shop (I had a great conversation about the oddities of American liquor sales with one of the employees). I was looking for a smaller bottle to drink while I was in France and one of the few they had in stock was a half bottle of G&M Mortlach 15 Year. Since I had been looking to try it for some time, this seemed like a perfect opportunity. While most of the bottle was drunk in about a week, I did manage to sneak a 2 oz sample home with me for further review.
As with the licensed Linkwood 15 Year, this whisky was aged exclusively in refill sherry casks, then bottled at 43%, probably with chill filtration and possibly with coloring.
G&M Mortlach 15 Year
Nose: a pleasant but not overwhelming sherry influence, berries, fresh grapes, melon, savory/meaty, dry and a little sharp sulphur, light oak, malt, fresh hay, blond tobacco, and mint in the background. After adding a few drops of water the notes become more integrated and some extra complexity comes out in the form of vanilla, more tropical and green (apple/pear) fruits, plus a hint of smoke and allspice.
Taste: bittersweet throughout, sherry and malt richness beginning at the front, some minty/floral top notes and tobacco in the middle, which is made less sweet by rising oak tannins, black pepper, and sulphur near the back. After dilution it becomes softer and sweeter, the sulphur integrates into the sherry, some vanilla joins the oak, and the oak tannins only come out right at the back.
Finish: sulphur, sherry residue, malt, light oak tannins, grassy, yeast-y savory notes
While this is not the first Mortlach I've ever tried (I got to sample the G&M 21 Year several years ago), this is the first 'classic' Mortlach I've tried. It hits all of the notes I expected, from the savory character of the sherry to the rather present sulfurous notes. So my willingness to recommend this whisky rests almost entirely on your tolerance for sulphur - if it's something you are OK with or enjoy, this will probably tickle your fancy. If you can't stand even a little bit of struck match, then I would give this a wide berth.