Monday, August 5, 2013

A Tale of Two Mortlachs: Binnys vs. K&L

Mortlach is one of the few single malts that seems to be more available now than it was five years ago.  A Diageo owned Speyside distillery, Mortlach has always had somewhat of a cult following.  There is only one official bottling, but there are numerous independents.   Today I'll compare two retailer specialty bottlings of 22 year old 1990 Mortlach aged in sherry cask:  a Chieftain's from K&L and a Signatory from Binny's.

Mortlach 1990, (Signatory for Binny's), 21 yo, Distilled 1990, Cask 6073, 52.8% abv ($100)

While it's officially 21 years old, the dates indicate that this Mortlach is only nine days short of 22 years.

The nose is malty without much trace of sherry at all.  Malt also dominates the palate, which starts with very nice sweet malty notes and then moves into fruit, floral notes, some bubble gum and a touch of white wine. 

This tastes much more like a bourbon cask offering.  If it didn't list it on the label, I would never have guessed that it was sherry cask matured.  I would assume that this was a cask that had already had a number of fills such that the sherry had all been sucked out of it.  Regardless, this is a very nice whiskey; just don't approach it thinking you're getting a sherried malt.

Mortlach 22 (Chieftain's for K&L), Distilled 1990, Cask 5160, 58.1% abv ($170)

The first thing I notice in contrast to the Binny's is how much darker the K&L Mortlach is; it has a dark red hue, while the Binny's is yellow (or as whisky companies call it, "golden").  Both indicate on the label that they have natural color so any difference is likely due to the particular casks or other factors such as temperature and warehouse placement. 

The nose has lightly sulfured sherry with some sweet fruit notes. The palate is a very dry sherry with a hint of sulfur and some spice.  On the finish, it's prunes and dry sherry.  This is a very nice, dry sherried malt.

This was a fascinating match up.  Two malts from the same distillery, distilled in the same year, of a comparable age and both aged in sherry butts, yet they are completely different in character.  Both of these malts are quite good and definitely worth trying, but if I had to pick just one, I'd say I slightly preferred the Binny's.



Alex said...

Were your detailed notes on the finish of the Binny's bottle cut-off?


David D said...

It's amazing how two whiskies from the same place, and of the same age, can be so different. This is a great example of why single cask bottlings are so fun and why it's so important to taste each one to know what you're getting.

I'll add this too, as I know it's bound to come up: if the whiskies are the same age, from the same place, at nearly the same proof, then why aren't they the same price? This has nothing to do with K&L vs. Binny's in pricing, but rather Chieftain's vs. Signatory. Signatory always has fantastic pricing for their casks, while Chieftain's is trying to squeeze out every last penny as of late (as I think they're moving away from single cask bottlings).

However, like my wife says, if you see the shoes you want, in the size you want them, and they fit perfectly, sometimes you've gotta just pull the trigger. We wanted that Mortlach.

sku said...

Alex, don't know what happened there.

David D., thanks for the comments.

spytech said...

Sku, i got one you should try... Michel Couvreur Overaged Malt Whisky 12 year. i picked up a bottle at astorwines (drinkupny has the special vatting version but it is double the price).

i think this juice is GREAT! i thought it had more complexity going than the macallan cask, which i also liked. i picked them both up at the same time.

sorry to be off topic.

NP said...

I drunk a bottle of the K&L stuff over the course of a week. On my own. Really good stuff.

The great and maybe sometimes overlooked thing about "sherry casks" is that there are many different types of sherries. Booze aged in a fino cask obviously wont taste the same as the same juice aged in olorosso, amontilllado, palo cortado or px casks. We all know that. But i feel that if a producer is giving the full details about a cask, the specific type of "sherry cask" should be listed. It is as important as the proof or the age.

sku said...

Good point NP. Neither of these bottles specified the type of sherry that had been used in the cask.

Anonymous said...

Signatory vs. Chieftain's, K&L vs. Binny's... doesn't really matter who made it, bottled it, or sold it: heavily sherried malts always cost more.

David D said...

@Anonymous - True that. Plus they're hard to find.

Anonymous said...

It would also seem likely that the K&L bottle is from a fresh cask, while the Binny's cask could easily be second-fill. Can't wait to try my bottle of the K&L!

Unknown said...

I have the Binny's bottle on hand, and I have rather enjoyed it. I myself wonder if it was just a 2nd fill sherry cask, or perhaps it was a fino sherry cask, as I get a lot of fruits I don't quite expect from Bourbon casks in the bottle, but at the same time it lacks the characters I have come to expect from a "traditionally" sherried bottle.