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Mortlach single malt Scotch whisky is reborn

Diageo is to relaunch Mortlach, the Speyside single malt whisky, which for decades has been largely used to add its unique and powerful notes to the  brand owner's premium blended Scotch whiskies. Only limited number of bottles of Mortlach have been widely available resulting in suggestions that such a rewarding single malt deserved a wider market.

The new Mortlach single malt Scotch whiskies will be made available in global markets in four expressions aimed at global travel and the luxury and connoisseur segment: Rare Old, Special Strength, 18-year-old and 25-year-old.

Whisky connoisseurs have described the whisky as “The Beast of Dufftown”, for its rich and powerful flavours, produced in a complicated distillation process which commentators have attempted to explain as ‘2.81 Distilled’. As announced in April 2013, Diageo is investing around £30m to double the distillery’s capacity and promote its whiskies widely. The expansion will include the building of a new stillhouse, which will replicate the complex distillation process that makes Mortlach unique.

In 1823 Mortlach was the first distillery to be built at Dufftown, now one of the epicentres of Speyside whisky distilling. Its most eminent owners were the entrepreneurial Scottish civil engineer George Cowie, and his son Dr Alexander Cowie. After playing a role in the shaping of the railway industry in the 19th century, George Cowie applied his pioneering and precise approach to engineering another great challenge, the production of single malt Scotch whisky. He accepted a partnership at the Mortlach distillery in 1852, before becoming sole owner in 1867.

In 1896, George died and his son Alexander assumed full control of the distillery. Alexander paved the way for the creation of the unique distillation system. Indeed, his pioneering work on whisky creation and production was soon recognised in the leading role he played in Scotland’s expanding malt whisky world. As Chairman of the North of Scotland Malt Distillers’ Association, he represented the interests of over 40 distillers and spoke on their behalf at the 1908/09 Royal Commission on Whiskey, where he proudly claimed “I am a malt distiller of high flavoured whisky, a thick type of whisky”.

The new Mortlach expressions will be available in selected markets in mid-2014. Further details of pricing, distribution and packaging will be released in early 2014.

3 December 2013 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor