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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lovejoy: Mortlach First Cask 1991 21 Year Old Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review

I love a bargain. More so, I love hunting around in charity shops, thrift shops and flea markets. In fact, before Christmas I even went on a special trip, driving to Brussels from London to look for interest artefacts in their legendary flea markets.

Taking a car was essential and proved to be a good decision when a real find was made: a lovely, but seriously heavy, antique wall mounted cabinet for just 30 Euro, the sort of thing that would be sourced by a dealer, cleaned up and put on sale in a North London ‘vintage’ shop for £300.  It now takes pride of place in my living room; I’m sure it has a wonderful back story, but I don’t know it. However, as with so many drams, this now has an immediate and very real narrative and hangs proudly in my home as a 3D postcard to a wonderful European weekend break.

It is these discoveries, and my house is full of them (from Ercol chairs to G Plan sideboards) which have popped up in a backwater shop somewhere, discarded and unloved, until they find a home which re-loves, re-uses and re-appreciates, that make me smile so.

However, these items are hard to find; they don’t come around every day and persistence is the key to digging out real gold. It really isn’t a case of wandering into a charity shop and walking out, Lovejoy-style, every time with something amazing. Nope, the gold-digging is the key and the moment, that wonderful moment, of finding something special is oh, so rare. As Arcade Fire sing, it is the place between the ‘click of the light and the start of the dream’; a place so rare, you often forget it exists.

In this day-and-age of extreme whisky prices, the click of the light is often when you hear about a product for sale that seems to have retained its price from a previous era when Scotch particularly, was much more innocent. The start of the dream is exactly that; realising if you’d been quicker, you could have picked it up at an amazing price, but now it is merely a dream.

However, every-so-often something comes along where you find yourself in exactly in the right place at the right time, something which happened to me recently in my local Laithwaites wine merchants... while browsing for a nice bottle of wine for dinner, my gaze was interrupted by some non-standard bottles of whisky. Investigating further, I found that one was a single sherry cask offering; a 21 year old Mortlach by Signatory (under their First Cask banner) for just £50.

Mortlach was the first distillery to be built in Dufftown, the beacon of whisky distilling in the Speyside region. Now owned by drinks giant Diageo, they have recently revealed plans to... well... ‘invest’ quite heavily in the brand, actually having a go at the premium market which brands such as The Macallan currently occupy. Having already announced that the current 16 year old Flora & Fauna bottling will slowly disappear from the shelves to make way for a new range of aged whiskies, as well as an expansion and rejuvenation of the distillery itself, the future for Mortlach is bright.

Any single cask for £50 these days is going to be a bargain, but a Mortlach (even before Diageo’s announcement) is a real bargain.

Mortlach – First Cask – 21 Years Old – 1991 / 2012 – 1st October 1991 - #7715 – bottle no 209 – 46% abv - £50.00

Nose: Rich velvety honey, crunchie bar, milk chocolate and suede jackets combine to give a nose that really is older than the sum of its parts. This is a meaty nose that reacts well to sherry, without a hint of sulphur, but with real body and structure.

Palate: Sweet, oak spices with pulled pork, rich cherry cordial, a surprising amount of buttery vanilla, some banana pancakes and bags of maple syrup.  A heady mix of hazelnut praline and strawberry jam finish off a deep and well rounded palate.

Finish: Fruits come to the fore, before oak spices, patchouli and cardamom finish off the dram.

Overall: A well balanced single sherry cask with excellent tones of oak, fruits and vanilla.

As the world goes mad for whisky and the residual market pushes prices up and up, it is refreshing to know that there are still bargains out there if you look hard.

And if you find them... drop us a line!