Tasting: Mortlach 1988 25y by Cadenhead’s

Dram data:Mortlach 1988 25y Cadenhead's
Distillery: Mortlach
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1988
Bottled: July 2014
Age: 25
Limitation: 576 bottles
Price at the time of purchasing: – (sample)
Casks: Sherry Cask
Alcohol: 56,8%
Unchillfiltered, uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
golden amber
The nose immediately emits lots and lots of dark, mysterious, moody character. I don’t usually visually depict a malt, but this is an old, wise, yet loving and caring old man sitting in his leather armchair. Weird how our sense of smell can bring up these kinds of visual images. I get aged leather, old books, spicy cigar tobacco, shoe polish, dark roast coffee, brazil nuts, dark bitter chocolate, with dried plums, figs and raisins in the background. A very engaging playoff between the wood and the fruits. Definitely needs time and a nice warm setting to completely open up. Adding a splash of water doesn’t hurt, shifting the balance more towards the sweet side. On the first sip the palate continues this interaction between the spicy oak influence and the dark sweet notes – but the alcohol comes into play as well, no wonder at nearly 57% ABV. Let’s add some water then. Mouth-watering, oily and thick texture. Like licking caramel syrup from a toasted cask stave. Add even more water. Now I get caramelised orange peel, dried plums, raisins, dried dates and figs with the still omnipresent, spicy Spanish oak influence. The long finish starts out with an oily, loud, bittersweet, coating bang before mellowing down, revealing more oak notes along the way.

Verdict:
This is a Mortlach, all right. A big, bold, beefy, well-aged, sherried Speysider with a hefty load of oak and dark fruits. The nose is really engaging and 90+ worthy in my opinion but the palate pushes the dram slightly below that range. They caught this malt right at the tipping point – any longer in the cask and it would probably have been too much.

I can’t conclude this review without spending a few words on the issue of the – in my opinion – completely out of touch new official Mortlach bottlings by Diageo. The official 25-year-old offering sets you back about 750€ at the time of writing. For a 0.5 litre bottle, that is, equalling 1050€ for a standard 0.7l bottle. This Cadenhead’s single cask offering currently costs 119€ here in Austria. So you can get 8,82 bottles of the Cadenhead’s for the price of the official one – not even factoring in the Cadenhead’s one being much more economic since it takes quite a lot of water. While I haven’t tasted the official 25-year-old (and probably won’t anytime soon, I’m too Scottish to shell out that kind of money) my recommendation is clear: Get a few bottles of different independently bottled Mortlachs – including this one – for the price of the official one and still end up with lots of money to spare on other great drams…

Score: 88/100

The sample for this whisky was kindly provided by the Cadenhead’s store in Salzburg. Cheers!

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