History Established in 1823 by James Findlater at the wake of the Excise Act, Mortlach distillery was founded on the site of an older illicit distillery, becoming the first legal distillery in Dufftown, the heart of Speyside, the epicentre of Scotch Whisky production in Scotland. The saying goes that ‘Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown built on seven stills’ – at the time these were Mortlach, Balvenie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Convalmore (silent) and Parkmore (closed). It was the only distillery in Dufftown for over 60 years, until in 1887 Glenfiddich was founded. In fact, the founder of Glenfiddich, William Grant, worked at Mortlach distillery for 20 years previous to this. Back then the output was about 50 gallons per week and it was generally sold direct off the still in 9 or 10 gallon casks to the very few well-to-do local gentry who could afford it. The price was about 9\-per gallon duty paid. There were few roads of any consequence and delivery was usually by pack pony over the rough hill tracks. In its early years, between 1823 and 1853 the distillery passed from owner to owner, at one point even becoming a brewery. However the fate of the distillery changed when, in 1853, George Cowie joined the distillery with the then current owner John Gordon. Previous to joining the distillery George was an engineer during the Golden Age of Victorian Engineering. Enlisted by two of Scotland’s greatest Victorian civil engineers – Thomas Grainger and John Miller – George was set to work developing vast segments of Great Britain’s railway infrastructure; he will have had a hand in the development of railway bridges, viaducts, tunnels and stations during this key period in Britain’s Industrialisation. In 1867 George Cowie became sole owner of the distillery, took the distillery from strength to strength and started up its global reputation as the whisky for flavour epicureans. Under his esteemed leadership, the liquid lived through a golden age; referred for a depth and strength of flavour other whiskies could not offer, it was reported in the Elgin Courant in 1868 that “There is not perhaps a distillery in Scotland that has so many private customers as Mortlach from whisky spirits are sent not only over the three kingdom’s to families, but to America, India, China and Australia, in all of whisky Mr Cowie has customers who prefer his distillation to all others”

Having married Margaret Mitchell in the summer of 1860 at Mortlach Church, in 1861 they had a son – Alexander Mitchell Cowie. Sharing his father’s relentless ambition and quest for knowledge, Alexander originally found his calling in medicine, graduating as a Bachelor of Medicine from the University of Aberdeen before moving to Vienna to further his studies and broaden his horizons. Just like the whisky, Alexander found himself travelling the empire, finally settling on the far reaches of Hong Kong. However, in 1896 when he found out his father was falling ill Dr Alexander returned to Dufftown and took control of the distillery, heralding a new chapter in the story of Mortlach. Like his father the art of building was in his blood; he set about continuing the Cowie dynasty. Calling on his scientific education and analytical mind, he paved the way for the creation of a unique distillation system, the 2.81 distillation process. Working with the famous distillery architect of the time, Charles C. Doig, the distillery was expanded in 1897, the 2.81 distillation process was put into place and they added the railway siding known as the ‘Strathspey line’ linking it directly to Dufftown. The distillery also received electrical lighting in 1898 – one of the first in the area.

This unique and astonishingly complicated distillation process, which commentators have attempted to explain as ‘2.81 distilled’, produces a whisky so flavoursome that whisky commentators have referred to it as the ‘Beast of Dufftown’ – a bold, rich and powerful spirit tamed for years in the finest oak casks. Alexander’s leadership and pioneering work on whisky creation and production were soon recognised in the leading role he played in Scotland’s esteemed malt whisky world. As Chairman of the North of Scotland Malt Distiller’s Association, Alexander represented the interests of over 40 distillers and was responsible for continuously pushing the boundaries of what was possible through a rigorous programme of innovation and testing. In fact, in 1907 Dr Alexander stood up in front of this board and said he was the proud owner of a ‘thick’ whisky – something that is true today. In a golden age of Victorian expansion and improvement, the Cowies were typical of those generations of engineers, scientists, surveyors and entrepreneurs who shaped the world in which they lived. They challenged the status quo and looked boldly beyond the horizon in a constant drive to better themselves, the world around them and the whisky that they produced.

In 1923 the distillery was bought by John Walker and Sons who then owned just one other distillery, Cardhu distillery – their spiritual home – which goes to show just how valuable they knew it was to some of their finest and most treasured blends. As such, for decades since then Mortlach has been considered a secret weapon amongst whisky blenders, going into some of the world’s most treasured and beloved blended whiskies. With its thick, rich, robust character the whisky provides backbone, body and character in the blending world. It’s also highly prized by whisky lovers across the world – highly sought out but, in the past, hardly found. That was until in 2014 the distillery was given the limelight and recognition it not only deserves, but one that it truly has earned with the launch of 4 new luxury single malts.

The Whiskyphiles tasting notes

Official Bottling
  • Mortlach 16 Years Old Mortlach 16 Years Old Flora and Fauna (2014) - Mortlach 16 Years Old Flora and Fauna 43% (Diageo) 43% ABV, £42.99 Score: 93/100 What they say: Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt The nose is quite fresh and […]
  • Mortlach-2013-SoS-Festival Mortlach 2013 Spirit of Speyside Festival (2016) - Mortlach 2013 Spirit of Speyside Festival (48%, OB, 2013) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Mortlach Distillery Bottling: Diageo ABV: 48% Cost: £100 What they say: An exclusive Limited Edition bottling […]
  • Mortlach_rare_old Mortlach Rare Old (2015) - Mortlach Rare Old (43.4%, OB, 2015) Mortlach Distillery – Diageo 43.4% ABV £54.28 Score: 67/100 What they say: Nose: Reserved and discreet, first showing a ripe fruity tang of red plum, peach […]
Independent Bottling
  • Mortlach 26yo 1987 Adelphi Mortlach 26 Years Old 1987 Adelphi Selection (2014) - Mortlach 26 Years Old 1987 [Cask #3102] – Adelphi Selection ~ 57% (Adelphi) 57% ABV, £85 for 70cl Score: 81/100 What they say: A 1987 vintage Mortlach from independent bottlers Adelphi. This […]
Càrn Mòr
  • Mortlach 18 Years Old 1995 Strictly Limited (2014) - Mortlach 18 Years Old 1995 – Strictly Limited (Càrn Mòr) 46% ABV, £60 for 70cl Score: 86/100 What they say: Distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2013, this amalgamation of 2 Hogshead […]
  • Carn-Mor-Vintage-Collection-Mortlach-2006 Mortlach 2006 Vintage Collection (2017) - Mortlach 6 Years Old 2006 Vintage Collection (46%, Carn Mor, 2012) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Mortlach distillery Bottling: Carn Mor,  Vintage Collection ABV: 46% Cost: £11.99 What they say: Carn Mor […]
Douglas Laing
  • mortlach-11-year-old-2004-cask-10968-old-particular-douglas-laing-whisky Mortlach 11 Years Old 2004 Old Particular (2020) - Mortlach 11 Years Old 2004 Old Particular #10968 Whisky Review: A little spirity and spicy, colour and palate suggest slightly under-active refill hogshead. A combination of Mortlach's heavy spirit and sweetness from vanilla and honey kept reminding me of eggy /sulphuric custard and pancakes throughout. 80/100
Gordon & MacPhail
  • Mortlach 15 Years Old Distillery Labels (Gordon & MacPhail) (2013) - Mortlach 15 Years Old Distillery labels Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Mortlach Distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail, Distillery Labels ABV: 40% Cost: £40 What they say Colour Dark Golden. Style […]
  • Mortlach1954SC Mortlach 1954 Speyside Collection (2017) - Mortlach 58 Years Old 1954 Speyside Collection (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sherry Butt #49, 2012) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Mortlach distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail, Speyside Collection ABV: 43% Cost: £10,495.95  […]
  • cc-mortlach-1987-boxbtl Mortlach 1987 Connoisseurs Choice (2020) - Mortlach 31 Years Old 1987 Connoisseurs Choice whisky review: A superbly aged and sherried Mortlach. Has that slightly smoky and fireworks/struck match quality that belies the age and production process of this malt. Overtly sherried but not overly woody, more chewy and earthy along with that smoke. Superb. 90/100
  • mortlach-25-years-old-1989-exclusive-gm-2 Mortlach 25 Years Old 1989 Exclusive (2016) - Mortlach 25 Years Old 1989 Exclusive (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Refill Sherry HH #4302, 282 Bottles, 2014) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Mortlach Distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail; Exclusive from […]
  • Mortlach 1939 75yo Bottle Mortlach 75 Years Old 1939 Generations (2018) - A Gordon & MacPhail tasting finishing with their Mortlach 75yo 1939 Generations - the worlds oldest whisky - can only be something very special! 98/100
Hunter Laing
  • Mortlach 11 Years Old 2004 Old Malt Cask 12150 (2021) - A rather sweet and zesty Mortlach with plenty of rich fruits and spice. No idea of the original wine in the cask maturation but the end result is really very drinkable. 84/100
La Maison du whisky
  • Mortlach 7 Years Old Tartan (2021) - Another raw and spirit-led Mortlach expression and again in the absence of serious cask-maturation I'm left underwhelmed by this one. 76/100
Mackillops Choice
  • Mortlach 22yo 1989 Mackillops Mortlach 22 Years Old 1989 Single Cask 3926 (2014) - Mortlach 22 Years Old 1989 Cask 3926 54.9% (Mackillops Choice) 54.9% ABV, £110 for 70cl Score: 90/100 What they say: A cask strength sherry-matured Mortlach from MacKillop’s Choice. This was distilled on […]
Malts of Scotland
  • Mortlach_1997_MOS Mortlach 1997 Port Finish Cask 16014 (2017) - Delicious, rich & juicy jammy fruits, lovely malty structure with touches of tannic leather and that still sulphur meatiness characteristic of Mortlach. 89/100
Murray McDavid
  • mortlach-21-year-old-1994-cask-2-mission-gold-murray-mcdavid-whisky Mortlach 21 Year Old 1994 Mission Gold (2016) - Mortlach 21 Year Old 1994 cask 2 Mission Gold ~ 50.4% (Murray McDavid) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Mortlach Distillery Bottling: Murray McDavid ABV: 50.4% Cost: £175.95 What they say: […]
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • Scotch Malt Whisky Society SMWS 76.108 Raspberry Ruffles (2014) - Mortlach 11 Years Old 2002 76.108 Raspberry Ruffles (57.9%, SMWS, 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel, 235 Bottles, 2013) 57.9% ABV, outturn 235 bottles, £48 for 70cl Score: 72/100 What they say: Cask No. […]
  • SMWS 76.120 Sweetie shop wish list (2014) - Mortlach 10 Years Old 2004 76.120 Sweetie shop wish list (58.9%, SMWS, 1st Fill Bourbon Barrel, 230 Bottles, 2014) 58.9% ABV, £48.40 for 70cl Score: 86/100 What they say: The nose was […]
That Boutique-Y Whisky Company
  • mortlach-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whisky Mortlach 18 Year Old Batch 3 (2018) - Whisky Review: Mortlach 18 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company). Quite fruity and fresh with red apples and toffee apples, hints of smoked ham and sweet-cured bacon, plenty of malt but also floral and herbal in places too. 86/100
Wemyss Malts
  • Mortlach 1995 Stem Ginger Preserve (2021) - Lovely, juicy and bright fruit notes, plenty of ginger but also great chamois leathery notes also, a little buttery and oily in places too. 87/100