The conventional wisdom holds that since the distillery’s relaunch, three Mortlach expressions are available — Rare Old, 18 Years Old, and 25 Years Old.
Not quite. There is a fourth expression: Special Strength, which is available only at travel retail. (Where I bought this.)
Special Strength is a surprisingly appropriate and non-obfuscating name for this whisky. It is the same spirit as Rare Old (no age statement but a knockout of a single malt), but bottled at higher proof: 98 proof, to be specific. (All of the other Mortlach bottlings hit 86.8 proof.)
As for Special Strength, it takes everything that’s great about Rare Old and only makes it better. The nose offers classic Speyside heather and grains, but with some little twists — grapefruit peel, red pepper, pickles, and notes of smoked salt. The palate is lush without being overpowering, The barley still comes through, but it is tempered delightfully by notes of caramel sauce, orange oil, dried herbs, and sesame oil. It’s well balanced on the whole, its flavor profile running more toward the savory than the sweet — and even though it’s a solid 49% alcohol, it drinks as easily as iced tea. The finish evokes very light floral elements and a touch of pepper, a nice way to end the dram.
As with the rest of the Mortlach lineup, it’s a smashing whisky that commands significant attention.
A / $105 (500ml) / mortlach.com