Hop Scotch for Top Scotch aimed at travellers
Our ‘Queen Bee’ has been traipsing around Scotland recently, writes Iain Robertson, and, while she will have enjoyed a lot of what it has to offer, he wagers that one particular pleasure might have missed her attention…
Name me a Scot, who does not enjoy a high quality Scotch Whisky, and I shall tell you that he is not a Scot. However, thankfully, Scotland has many fans, around the world, including Lyn, who thrill to its heritage, its warmth of welcome, its high culinary standards and its frequently cold environmental clarity. Allied to that is a love of its varied topography.
All of these elements combine in its national alcoholic beverage, Scotch Whisky. Aficionados and lovers alike enjoy the potency of Scotch, as both a casual and serious drink, but they also revel in its history, much of which is cloaked in mystery and guarded secrecy. Of course, the Scots love a great tale and, if they can lace it with the spirited essence of a decent Scotch, the night is theirs and nobody would deny them that privilege.
Naturally, Scotch can be broken into many regional variances that include blends, single grains and, the favourite of them all, the Single Malt. No matter where you travel in Scotland, Borders country, Lowlands, Highlands, or The Isles, you are seldom far from a distillery and each possesses its own, unique characteristics. For ‘breathing, some rely on sea air, while others depend on verdant glens. Yet, all rely on the important caskage.
Personally, I love the way in which the Scotch Whisky industry continues to evolve and, in some cases, reinvent itself. Should you be travelling in Scotland, the Highlands area of Dufftown acts as a genuine centre of excellence for the drink. The ‘Scotch Whisky Trail’ is brown-signposted from every main route across the Highlands and ‘dabblers’ (who do require a nominated driver, by the way) can indulge in their search for knowledge from just a day, or even a week, travelling from one distillery to the next. It is a fascinating exercise that Scottish Tourism knows how to market well.
However, knowing about Mortlach distillery, which has supplied all manner of Whiskies to the broader bottling industry, has often proved difficult. In fact, its in-name output has never been of high volume and only selected bars can supply you with a glass of its finest blends, or Single Malts. However, its master blender, Dr Jim Beveridge (if ever there were a more apt name), has finally acknowledged a demand for the Mortlach.
Drawn from a complex combination of first fill, refill and recharged American and European oak casks, he has relented and produced Mortlach Special Strength at a wondrous 49% ABV. Its individual character is complex, yet marvellously harmonious, resulting in a nose of vanilla, the headiness of smoked oak and the underlying semi-herbiness of its aromatics. It is a distinctively different flavour that results, with slight chilli on the palate, a gorgeous, spacey roundness to its initial savour, followed by the innate and intrinsically spirited warmth as it slips effortlessly down the gullet.
Add a touch of pure spring water and it comes alive, with even more vanilla essence and florid, honeyed esters possessing a classical elegance. Mortlach suggests that it is the ideal Scotch for travellers and its marketing campaign targets the important Duty Free areas at airports like Heathrow and Dubai, where you can gain your first taste, if you have never sampled ‘heaven’ before (for a short time, a set of free Whisky tumblers is also being given to Mortlach adopters).
It does appear that this is the ideal arena, in which to carry out a launch activity, as shoppers are invariably seeking premium Scotch Whiskies that remind them of their journeys and provide a surprise. That even the bottle represents a beautiful, hand-crafted, crystal flask is another benefit and is all the better to see the beguiling honey golden colour of the single malt contained within it. It is not an inexpensive, run-of-the-mill Scotch, rest assured, a factor inherent to its cost at £75 per bottle, but there are few Scotch Whiskies that will deliver such a special reward, once opened and tasted and enjoyed.
Conclusion: As stated up-front, Mortlach Special Strength Scotch Whisky embodies the heritage of an ancient industry, through the warmth of its flavoursome taste, its outstandingly complex, yet beguiling blend and its amazing clarity. That it hails from the Highlands is an added bonus. It is the ‘nectar of the gods’ and will not appeal to everyone but it is one of the finest premium Scotches in the world, make no mistake.