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Douglas Laing Mortlach 2006

Sharing is becoming a growing trend in whisky nowadays, reflecting the increasing price of whisky and the desire to explore its varieties on a larger scale. As Adam pointed out so wonderfully recently, we must balance the need to enjoy and appreciate whisky on a firm footing in tandem with our actual health and the ability to show restraint.

We’ve always shared out samples over the years, but more than ever before, groups are coming together to purchase bottles and form a mutual appreciation. This trend isn’t just limited to the ravenous secondary market, where more ridiculous prices are being delivered in a frenzied liquid gold rush. It also applies to new releases and the sense that you have to make do with a share, whether it’s price-based, or a reflection of increased demand.

The positives and negatives of sharing are well documented. It spreads the cost and risk alongside the potential enjoyment if you do stumble across a bottle that hits home and cannot be sourced again. More than ever, as consumers, we are being more selective and stepping away from releases as these are beyond our budget, or from those for whom the asking price represents too high a cost.

The art of the bottle kill is on the wane, and in my own personal experience, the opportunity to finish a bottle is a rarity. The relentless nature of this place alongside a thoughtful approach means less is more. Thankfully, the Scottish climate means bottles can sit safely for a while and be appreciated as staple resources. I’m a firm believer in finishing what you have and giving it that chance to show its true colours before moving onto something else.

Sharing is important and should be encouraged. This particular Douglas Laing release is a bottle I was kindly given (thanks Mally) to finish off myself. As the last recipient of this release, I do feel I have to give it and the generous donation a fair crack of the whip. For Douglas Laing, it also gives us some much-needed coverage of this Glasgow-based bottler.

Mortlach was the beast of Dufftown until it was castrated by Diageo and its ill-fated attempt at becoming a premium brand. Everything that many of us loved about Mortlach was watered-down, coloured and forced into a 50cl bottle with a drastically increased asking price. Vast sums were spent trying to wow foreign markets with premium events and a specific brand ambassador. The end result was shambles when the expressions were rejected by consumers in a market that didn’t know about Mortlach or warm to the new bling brand. I’m pleased that such a greedy endeavour came crashing to an end. Ultimately, it begged the question, was the whole operation fully thought through? Did Diageo actually utilise simplistic benchmarking tools such as market research and test groups prior to humiliating the Mortlach that many loved?

Being able to look back with hindsight is always easy. However, the reaction at the time of the brand launch was far from the positivity of a Trump rally event. Lessons should be learned, as ultimately, this is almost the perfect way not to launch a new brand into the marketplace. Yet it seems the industry is predisposed to chasing the yen, dollar or whatever else with its own sense of gold fever. How many successful launches have followed suit since? I’m actually struggling to formulate many suggestions. Instead, you can only think of the misfires such as Balblair, Bladnoch, Fettercairn, Glenrothes, Pulteney and another attempt at Mortlach.

If someone was asking me about a new brand or relaunch, I’m far from an expert, but there are some basic foundations that should be considered. Apart from the quality of the contents (a tricky aspect for most distilleries), a fair price, an age statement and a more natural presentation must all be accommodated. These should stand alongside information, traceability and restrained packaging. Nowadays the design ethic seems to have overtaken everything else, and while I do like a good label as much as the next person, once you’ve opened a bottle, the exterior becomes somewhat redundant in the scheme of things. Less of these fanciful stories and gimmicks would also be beneficial.

This Mortlach was distilled in April 2006 before being bottled in July 2018 from a refill hogshead (DL12409), resulting in an outturn of 338. Bottled at a strength of 54.9%, this release formed part of the exclusive range for their UK emporiums. As always, it features no colouring and is non-chill-filtered.

Douglas Laing Mortlach 2006 – review

Colour: lemon flesh.

On the nose: quite sappy initially with hints of white pepper and mint leaf. A sense of pinewood, thyme and white sugar cubes. Beneath there is peeled apples, oat cakes, vanilla custard and lemon drops. Returning, we have incense and I cannot shake the porridge vibe. Water brings about sawdust, basil leaf and memories of apple pie fresh from the oven.

In the mouth: interesting! A different Mortlach it goes without saying. Rather than savoury its more citrus and sweetness. A pleasing texture. Lemon peel, green apples, icing sugar and green olives. Some resin moments and vanilla nougat. Water improves the texture becoming more oily, a little clammy and dryness of the oak.

Conclusions

A real detour of a Mortlach and a welcome departure from the norm. It’s a fun dram with a certain degree of complexity and challenge to appreciate. As such, its a bold choice for the UK Emporiums that may reflect their clientele. It loses a mark for the entry price of £75, which is a reflection of the Douglas Laing approach to pricing and puts this in the realm of the official 16-year-old. I’d be happier nearer £50 or thereabouts. Still, a thumbs up from me.

Score: 6/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Mark says:

    JJ, Malt hasn’t featured any reviews of the new Balblair range yet, but from the comment above I take it that they’ve been poorly received (leaving aside – or not – the abominable pricing)?

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Mark

      What I’ve had, I’ve been nonplussed by, and as you mention the pricing. Hopefully we can bring you at least one of the range this month.

      Cheers, Jason

  2. Avatar
    Greg B. says:

    I think the last Diageo malt I purchased was a bottle of Cragganmore 12, a subtle but enjoyable old favorite of mine, only because the local liquor board was de-listing it and I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it again. I make it a point to otherwise avoid all Digeo malts because of their outsized influence on the category and their many attempts to squeeze every bit of profit out of their holdings.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Greg,

      Yep, I can appreciate where you’re coming from. I do enjoy the staple Cragganmore along with the Clynelish. They do have a massive influence on the industry and SWA. I would hope that’s a force for good, but in this modern age of whisky, it’s more likely to be a force for profit maximisation.

      Cheers, Jason.

  3. Avatar
    Welsh Toro says:

    Yep, a fine review as always and it reflects what I thought about this bottle. Indi bottles can veer from official stuff and expectations. Official Mortlach is completely shafted and the new range is only marginally better. Total own goal but a number of other distilleries are going for it as you say. Let’s not forget Aberlour in that mention and Highland Park have been doing it via the stealth route. Independent bottlers shine a light on a number of whiskys we think we know about but the good old days of value have almost disappeared. One of the tragedies of our time is the parity in pricing between official and independent bottles for ‘deluxe’ distilleries. There are some gems in the unfashionable ones however.

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