Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Robbie Burns–Mortlach 1997

It’s Robbie Burns Night and as I was picking my toasting Scotch – I decided to go with something a little different – and when going down that path, I always recommend looking for anything from Signatory Vintage Distributors.

Mortlach LabelSignatory Vintage was established in 1988 by Andrew and Brian Symington. however, they were only granted a license to bottle whisky in 1992. During the four years between, the company were sourcing and storing whisky from distilleries all over Scotland. They bottle and hand label everything from their headquarters in Edinburgh and their current stock list includes releases from over 50 distilleries, including some closed or mothballed ones. Signatory have three main ranges – the regular range which is bottled at 43% ABV, a cask strength range and an unchillfiltered range. They also own the Edradour distillery in the central Highlands, which they purchased in 2002.

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While the above information is somewhat dated (my bottle was bottled in 2010), I’ve still had great success with Signatory.  So what you get when you buy from them, you get some very unique and limited (at times, bottling from a single cask) whiskies.  As you can see on the label (click to embiggen) you get some very specific data….which to collectors and drinkers can mean a lot.

Tonight’s dram is from a distillery I had never heard of, a 1997 Mortlach.


A Speyside distillery that has a capacity of approximately 3 Million liters a year, Mortlach is an important contributor to the Johnny Walker blends. 

Mortlach Lineup

I actually laid my drinks out in two presentations – one in a toasting glass (very fitting) and the other in a whisky glass with a Whiskey Disk inside (for casual sipping while I wrote and watched Back to the Future).


Appearance – Bottling wise, typical no frills Signatory Vintage.  The best part for me is that added data – for example, my bottle came from Cask 12854 and is bottle number 74 out of 369.

Color is a light golden hue, with a crystal clear appearance.  I was actually taken back by the lightness and brilliant (the picture does it no justice) clarity.

Mortlach ColorNose- Not as peaty as I am used to, there is still a strong alcohol nose, with a mix of berries, floral/flowery, citrus that is quite appealing.  I was actually reminded of some of the high end Gins when it came to the berry nose – so that is a good thing. 

Definitely this whisky takes on the oak from the cask, so if you are strictly a Peat-head – this might not be for you.

Taste – Oaky/Woody, with a (again) strong alcohol opening.  Rather viscous (with a honey taste and feel), I was surprised how well it coated the mouth.  Fruity and sweet (honey) made this actually quite pleasant.  Even the aftertaste was refreshing (as I watched Marty McFly experience Hill Valley for the first time in the 50s).  In particular, the spiciness (equal, if not exceeding,  of some the quality rums out there) really adds to a rather excellent finish.

As  always, I am impressed with what Signatory has done.  They take left over casks, bottle them and release a classic. 

While not my typical, this was an excellent whisky that I was completely amazed by – although I shouldn’t be surprised.  Signatory opens up wide range of typically unavailable whiskies to us (the common man) at (typically) a reasonable price.  While I cannot attest to the availability/bottling of this particular cask, I can speak to the quality of product Signatory Vintage puts out…I have never been disappointed.   I would love to try other samplings from Mortlach, however – this might be (due to local availability) this might be my only shot.

An excellent whisky, I would definitely rate it a solid 4 stars, with a potential 5th star for those of you who enjoy those whiskeys that are nor overly peated.

Great Job to both Mortlach (for the distilling) and Signatory Vintage (for the bottling) for bringing this to market. 

Cheers to all -


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