Mortlach brand logo with blue background and gold text.

Mortlach Distillery

  • Scotland
  • Whisky of the Year (2023), Speyside Festival Limited Edition Release (2013)
Phone Number
  • +441340822100
  • United Kingdom, Keith, Dufftown

Mortlach Distillery entrance with sign and greenery.

History of Mortlach Distillery

The Founding Era (1823-1852)

Mortlach Distillery was established in 1823 by James Findlater, Alexander Gordon, and Donald Mackintosh. It was founded on the site of an older illicit distillery, marking it as the first legal distillery in Dufftown. This period was significant in the wake of the Excise Act, which played a crucial role in the legalisation and regulation of whisky production in Scotland.

The George Cowie Era (1853-1897)

In 1853, George Cowie joined the distillery, working under the leadership of John Gordon who had taken sole ownership the previous year. George Cowie was an engineer by profession, and his expertise contributed significantly to the distillery’s operations. The distillery saw significant growth and innovation under Cowie’s influence, especially in the latter half of the 19th century.

Expansion and Innovation (1897-1964)

Alexander Cowie, continuing his father’s legacy, worked with distillery engineer Charles Doig. In 1897, the distillery underwent a major expansion, doubling in size and adding a railway siding. Alexander Cowie also developed the unique 2.81 distillation process, which is a hallmark of Mortlach to this day. This intricate process, combined with traditional Worm Tub condensers, is key to the rich and bold character of Mortlach whisky.

Modernisation and Global Recognition (1964-Present)

In 1964, sections of the distillery’s apparatus were renewed, although the core pattern of operation and traditional elements like the wooden worm tubs were maintained. More recently, in 2014, Mortlach launched four new bottlings and announced a distillery expansion, indicating a commitment to both tradition and innovation.

Mortlach has also played a significant role in the blended Scotch market, particularly as a primary whisky in many Johnnie Walker blends. This relationship began in 1923 when John Walker & Sons purchased the distillery. Today, Mortlach is part of Diageo, a leading multinational beverage company.

Mortlach’s Whisky Portfolio

Mortlach is renowned for its rich, bold, and complex whiskies. The distillery offers a range of single malt expressions, each with unique characteristics:

Mortlach Rare Old: Aged in sherry and bourbon casks, known for its floral aroma and flavours of licorice and roasted vanilla.

Mortlach 18 Year Old: Matured in Sherry and American oak casks, it offers a slightly sweet taste with toasted caramel and espresso notes.

Mortlach 23 Year Old 1991 (cask 5887) – Mackillop’s Choice: Aged in a Sherry cask, known for its spicy and peppery notes.

Mortlach 25 Year Old: Aged in American oak casks, featuring flavours of licorice, Scottish heather, plums, and clementines.

Mortlach 26 Year Old 1989 (cask 10774) – Xtra Old Particular (Douglas Laing): A robust whisky with cedar flavours, aged in a single refill hogshead.

Mortlach’s whiskies, known for their depth and versatility, pair well with various foods, from red meats to dark chocolates, making them popular among connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.

Awards Won by Mortlach Distillery

Whisky of the Year (2023) – Awarded to Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1989 Mortlach 31-Year-Old at the International Whisky Competition​​.

Speyside Festival Limited Edition Release (2013) – A special release from hand-picked casks, non-chill filtered, presented during the Speyside Festival​​.

Mortlach Distillery Tour Information and Experience

Mortlach Distillery, renowned for its unique and robust whiskies, offers a distinctive experience for those interested in exploring the world of Scotch whisky. However, it’s important to note that the distillery itself is not open to the general public. For those seeking a more personalised experience, private tours can be arranged, offering a rare glimpse into the heart of whisky production.

Tour Arrangements

To organise a private tour, interested visitors need to contact the distillery directly. This can be done via telephone or email. Due to the exclusivity of these tours, planning ahead is advisable to ensure availability.

Unique Features of Mortlach

Production Process: Mortlach’s production capacity stands at 2.9 million liters per year, with water sourced from the Conval Hills of Speyside. The distillery maintains traditional production methods, including the use of larch wood worm tubs, which are rare in modern distilleries.

Pot Stills: The distillery houses six uniquely shaped pot stills, contributing to its distinct whisky character. Mortlach is known for a 2.81 times distillation process, combining double and triple distilled spirits.

Mashing and Fermentation: The distillery employs a continuous mashing process with a 12-ton mash tun, and the fermentation takes place in wooden washbacks made of Oregon Pine.

Maturation: Mortlach primarily uses Sherry casks for maturation, but has recently incorporated ex-Bourbon white oak casks as well. The whisky ages in five traditional “dunnage-style” warehouses.

Distillery History

Mortlach holds a significant place in the history of Scottish whisky. Established in 1823, it was the first legal distillery in Dufftown and has gone through various ownerships and expansions over the years. The distillery’s history is marked by innovation and tradition, making it an integral part of the Speyside whisky landscape.

Flask & Barrel Review of Mortlach Distillery

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Mortlach Distillery, and as a seasoned whisky collector on numerous distillery tours, I must say that Mortlach stands out. I’m giving it a solid 4.7 out of 5. Here’s why:

Firstly, the setting in Dufftown is just classic Speyside – serene and steeped in history. Mortlach, being the first legal distillery in Dufftown, carries an air of heritage that’s palpable the moment you set foot on the grounds. It’s like stepping back in time but with a modern twist.

Now, let’s talk about the whisky. Mortlach’s unique 2.81 distillation process is a marvel. It’s not just a gimmick; it genuinely translates into the whisky’s character. The flavours are bold, rich, and complex – precisely what I look for in a Speyside single malt. Tasting their range, especially the Mortlach 25-Year-Old model, was a highlight. Its balance of sweetness and depth is something any whisky enthusiast would appreciate.

The tour itself was insightful. Even though I’ve been on many distillery tours, I learned a few new things about whisky making, particularly Mortlach’s worm tubs and their influence on the spirit’s flavour. The guide was knowledgeable and passionate, making the tour more engaging.

However, why not a full 5 out of 5? The distillery isn’t usually open to the public, which is a bit of a letdown for casual visitors. I was fortunate to arrange a private tour, but I imagine this being a hurdle for many. Plus, while I adore the complexity of Mortlach’s whiskies, newcomers to Scotch might find them a bit intimidating.

What To Do Nearby Mortlach Distillery

The Whisky Line – Keith & Dufftown Railway: Just 0.1 miles from Glenfiddich Distillery, this heritage railway offers a unique journey through the picturesque Scottish landscapes, perfect for a relaxing day out.

Balvenie Castle: Located only 0.2 miles from the distillery, this castle is steeped in history and offers a glimpse into Scotland’s past. It’s a great spot for history enthusiasts and photographers alike.

The Balvenie Distillery: At a mere 0.3 miles away, here’s another opportunity for whisky lovers to explore the intricacies of Scotch whisky production.

Speyside Tours: Found 0.8 miles from the distillery, Speyside Tours offers a more in-depth whisky experience, with expert guides and tailored tours.

Auchindoun Castle: Just 0.5 miles away, the ruins of Auchindoun Castle are a must-visit for those interested in Scottish history and enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path sites.

Ace Taxis Dufftown: Located 0.7 miles from the distillery, they can be handy for exploring the wider region without the hassle of driving.

Speyside Cooperage: At 2.7 miles from the distillery, this cooperage offers a unique insight into the art of barrel-making, crucial in the whisky aging process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What restaurants are near Mortlach Distillery?

Seven Stills French Restaurant and Malt Whisky Bar/Lounge: It has a rating of 4.8 stars on Google Maps. The contact number for reservation is +441340820880, and the address is 30 Fife St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AL, United Kingdom.

Spice of India: This restaurant has a rating of 4.5 stars on Google Maps. You can call them at +441340820820, and the address is 9-13 Church St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AR, United Kingdom.

Castle Chinese Takeaway: It has a rating of 4.6 stars on Google Maps. The contact number is +441340820100 and address is 5 Church St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AR, United Kingdom.

What hotels are near Mortlach Distillery?

Whisky Capital Inn: It has a rating of 4.9 stars on Google Maps. Their contact number is +441340820313, and their address is 4 Church St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AR, United Kingdom.

Commercial Hotel Dufftown: This hotel has a rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. The contact number is +441340820313, and the address is 4 Church St, Dufftown, Keith AB55 4AR, United Kingdom.

Dunvegan Bed & Breakfast: It has a rating of 4.9 stars on Google Maps. The contact number is +447894066586 and their address is Dunvegan 21, Macduff Pl, Dufftown AB55 4AA, United Kingdom.