Like all Scotch whisky the three vital raw ingredients that make up Mortlach start out usual enough (yet still spectacular in their own right) – barley, yeast and water from the Conval springs.
These ingredients are combined together in such a way that we end up making a liquid akin to a strong beer, otherwise known as wash. Sitting at 9% ABV, this is then ready to transfer into our still house for the next stage of the whisky making process.
Like many other Scotch whisky distilleries, Mortlach has six copper pot stills: three wash stills and three spirit stills. But this is where the similarities end, for it is in the still house where the magic takes place. The stills are all different shapes and different sizes. They work in unique ways to produce three different kinds of spirit that are then combined in the casks we mature.
The first of the three is a moderately malty distillate stream, acquired from the pairing of wash stills 3 & spirit still 3;
The second of the three is a light, fruity distillate stream, that eventually runs out from spirit still number 2;
And the third…what can we say about the third. Well this is where the spirit is thickened, condensed, reduced down to its primal essence. The third stream is where the infamous ‘Wee Witchie’ works its magic, producing a muscular, robust, rich distillate.
By combining these three streams together in a precise, yet powerful, manner Mortlach is born and ready to be placed into cask for gentle slumber. This process – more than double but not quite triple – is the infamous 2.81 distillation process, unique to Mortlach distillery. In place since 1896 this creates a spirit that lives up to its nickname “The Beast of Dufftown”.
The final piece our unique production process is the condensation of spirit, after distillation, in the increasingly rare and very traditional worm tubs. Only found in 13 distilleries across Scotland, these wooden vessels placed outside the stillhouse, exposed to the elements, are a vital piece to the Mortlach recipe. These worm tubs accentuate the meaty, thick, viscous character our distillers are looking for.
At Mortlach, various types of premium oak casks help accentuate the distillery character. Ex-bourbon American oak casks mixed with refill European Oak and a few recharred hogsheads add spiciness and robustness to Rare Old and Special Strength. First-fill ex-bodega European oak butts feature strongly along with refill ex-bourbon casks in the 18 year old, in which this combination builds voluptuous layers of flavour. Refill American oak hogsheads alone are used in the 25 year old, to allow its exquisite, multi-faceted and refined character to shine through.