Mortlach Stillhouse

NB – this news has been strictly embargoed until 13:00 today, so you’ll very likely be seeing some updates to this post as soon as we receive the official press release (as well as some pretty pictures no doubt). Keep checking back folks.

Breaking news: Diageo are to re-launch the ever-popular Mortlach Single Malt into their stable of Permanent single malts in 2014, Master of Malt have been told.

The first phase of the product rollout will cover the UK, France, USA, Asia Pacific, Taiwan, China, Singapore and Global Duty Free beginning in July 2014. The rest of the world will follow.

The initial expressions are:

Mortlach Rare old – a NAS whisky, bottled at 43.4% taken from First Fill, Refill and Re-charred American and European Oak Casks (so, erm, a bit of everything then really). The 43.4% abv, incidentally, is a historical bottling strength for the brand. The Cowie family (who used to own Mortlach) bottled at this strength in late 19th and early 20th Century. Always pleasing to see the higher ABVs Diageo seem committed to in their Malt range. Bravo.

Mortlach Special Strength – This is a Duty Free exclusive, and is basically just ‘Rare Old’ at a higher ABV (49%). The liquid’s exactly the same, just a little less water in it.

Mortlach 18yo – again at 43.4%, this expression is taken from first fill and refill European oak, with just a little refill American oak for good measure. Stylistically, this is likely to be very similar indeed to the current Flora and Fauna 16yo bottling, just with a couple of extra years, and an extra 0.4% ABV for good measure.

Mortlach 25yo – 43.4% again, and taken entirely from refill American oak hoggies. Unsurprising given the stock policies of the mid-80s, but interesting that the whisky’s obviously good enough to warrant releasing with no cask-finishing or otherwise buggering about with it. Such is the way with ‘heavyweight’ spirit I suppose. This was described to me by Mr. Diageo as having “An almost animal intensity, with layers of decadent sweetness”.

Currently, no details of pricing are available – these will follow in February 2014, but it’s likely (in my opinion) that the ‘Rare Old’ expression below will sit at the same sort of £40-50 price level as other recent premium NAS releases from Diageo such as Talisker Storm/Port Ruighe, and Caol Ila Moch. Lordy knows where they’ll go price-wise with the 18 and 25, but I’m assured that they’re definitely going to be on-going expressions, and are not part of the annual Special Releases.

Now – perhaps the most interesting part of this re-launch is not the (inevitable) expansion of the distillery in order to cope with demand, but rather the way that they’re going about this. Rather than simply pushing the old stillhouse into a big hole and erecting a new one made of shiny glass and dreams, they’re going to replicate, exactly, the old still-house setup in order to double the capacity of the distillery. Effectively a ‘Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V’ for the entire production facility.

This speaks volumes about the importance to Diageo of replicating the spirit character as closely as possible, as the current stillhouse setup is, to be frank, a bit of an ergonomic nightmare (my words, not theirs), and it’s reasonably obvious that there would have been huge efficiency savings to be had by streamlining the whole production process. Diageo are foregoing these in favour of keeping as true as possible to the spirit of the existing, erm, spirit. There are apparently plans afoot to do something a bit different with the buildings that house the production machinery, but in essence, every single part of the production setup, every still, mashtun, pipe bend and dent will be replicated as closely as possible. Pleasing. Very pleasing.

And yes, the Flora and Fauna 16yo is being withdrawn, so yes, you should probably buy up all that you can find now. And yes, we’re almost certainly sold out already.