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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Speyside Distillery

Mortlach Scotch Whisky Distillery History

Established by James Findlater, Alexander Gordon & Donald Mackintoshin 1823-24 Mortlach was the first licensed distillery to be built at Dufftown and, until Glenfiddich was constructed in 1887, the only one.


The distillery was built next to Highland John’s well , an excellent spring that had previously been used for illicit distilling. The distillery struggled during its early years James Findlater was forced into selling the distillery for £270 only seven years after it was built.


This stop-start operation continued for some time and when J. & J. Grant bought the distillery in 1837 they removed the distilling equipment for their new venture at Glen Grant, the distillery was left silent.


During this time local members of the Free Church of Scotland used the barley store as a place of worship until their new church was built in the town.


Next, the property became a brewery, then finally a distillery again in 1852 when ownership passed to John Gordon. In 1854 George Cowie became involved creating John Gordon & Co. The whisky produced was given a brand name, ‘The Real John Gordon’, a reference to the owner.


Ownership passed to in 1865 George Cowie, a surveyor for the railway companies and later became the provost (mayor) of Dufftown.


At about the same time distillery employee arrived called William Grant He worked at Mortlach principally as a bookkeeper for just on 20 years before handing in his notice in 1886. He had decided that he knew enough about distilling by this time and had decided to set up on his own and build the Glenfiddich. Distillery.


In 1897 and enjoying the profits from the whisky boom the stills were increased from 3 to 6. A railway siding linking Mortlach with Dufftown station was created.


Electric light went added the following year and a hydraulic lift system was fitted in the warehouses for lifting casks and assorted loads to the upper floors. This system has only recently been removed.


At some point in 1923 the Cowie family sold the distillery to John Walker & Sons Ltd Two years later DCL take control of John Walker. Then in 1930 the distillery is passed to SMD Ltd Mortlach is still in the hands of successors United Distillers.


The distillery was completely refitted in 1963-4, however the exterior, including the two (now decorative) pagoda heads, was left unaltered. This has successfully retained its look of a turn-of-the-century distillery complex. The floor maltings were used up until 1968.


The still layout used at Mortlach is quite unusual in that the stills are of different sizes and, although there is three of each type, they are not paired off. This is because in 1897 capacity was doubled and three additional stills were added, this meant six individual stills not the normal three pairs


Also, there is a rather complicated procedure of making different combinations of distillate from each of the stills and using two spirit safes. This includes part triple distillation of some of the spirit.


This layout and procedures has been maintained, as to do otherwise would probably have altered the full-bodied character of Mortlach whisky


Traditional exterior Worm-tubs are still used to condense the spirit, however the new stainless steel Lauter Mashtun was installed in 1996.


Regarded as a first class blending malt whisky, along with Cardhu and Talisker, it is an important contributor to Johnnie Walker blends


Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Distillery Bottlings

Mortlach Aged 16 Years Flora & Fauna


Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Older Distillery Bottlings

Mortlach 20 Year 1978 Old Rare Malts Selection

Mortlach 22 Year 1972 Old Rare Malts Selection

Mortlach 23 Year 1972 Old Rare Malts Selection


Mortlach 1971 Aged 32 Year Old


Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Independent Bottlings


Berry's Own Selection

Blackadder International


"Cask Strength" selection (Duncan Taylor)

Chieftains Choice

Coopers Choice

Dewar Rattery

Distillery Malt (Gordon & MacPhail),

Dun Bheagan (Ian McLeod),

Duncan Taylor Collection,

Gordon & MacPhail

Hart Brothers  

Kingsbury (Japan Imports System)


Murray McDavid

Norse Cask (Denmark)

NC2 (Duncan Taylor).

Old Malt Cask (Douglas Laing)

Old Masters (James MacArthur)

Premier (Douglas Laing)

Private Collection (Gordon & MacPhail),

Provenance (Douglas Laing),

Scotts Selection


Un-Chill Filtered  (Signatory).

Whisky Galore (Duncan Taylor).


Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 Year Old

Matured and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail.

Colour: Rich amber.



Nose: Mulled fruit with cereal/oatmeal aromas. Subtle floral(geranium) hints.

Palate: Sweet sherry wood with rich fruit flavours and a spicy, treacle note


With water

Nose: Rich fruit cake aroma - orange peel with a smokyedge.

Palate: Fruity with sweet, spicy edge and charred oak.


Body: Rich.

Finish: Sherry wood.

Cask Type: First Fill and Refill Sherry Casks.

Whisky Style: A hidden gem - one of the finest Speyside Single Malts.

Mortlach Distillery, Dufftown,



AB55 4AQ

Tel: +44 (0)1340 820318



No Visitor Facilities.

Mortlach Scotch Whisky

Distillery Style Tasting Notes


Nose: Big, fruity, heavily sherried.


Palate: Big rich and chewy. Fruit cake, spices, nutty.


Finish: Long and complex with a touch of spice.

Founded in 1823 by James Findlater and partners

Location Speyside region, Central district Dufftown

Water source Springs in the Conval Hills.


Mortlach Distillery Equipment

Stainless steel Lauter mash tun

6 Oregon pine washbacks

3 Wash and 3 spirit stills

Copper worm tub cooling of the spirit

Matured in Sherry casks