Secret Scotch behind whiskies

Ms Georgie Bell, global brand ambassador for single malt whisky Mortlach, says the Scotch has traditionally been used to add character to blends of other whisky brands.
Ms Georgie Bell, global brand ambassador for single malt whisky Mortlach, says the Scotch has traditionally been used to add character to blends of other whisky brands. PHOTO: MORTLACH

For more than nine decades, single malt Scotch whisky Mortlach has been used as an incognito ingredient in the renowned Johnnie Walker Scotch label blend and in the blends of other whisky brands such as Buchanan’s, Black & White and Vat 69.

But the 192-year-old Dufftown based distillery in Scotland stepped out of the shadows when it was launched as a standalone brand in August last year.

Mortlach was acquired by British alcohol giant Diageo in 1997 and is one of the 28 malt distilleries that supply spirits to the company’s stable of whiskies.

According to its global brand ambassador, Briton Georgie Bell, Mortlach has long enjoyed a cult following among whisky connoisseurs and its bottlings are notoriously few and far between.

In the past 16 years, Mortlach underwent only nine official bottlings by Diageo, with about 800 cases made available worldwide annually. The limited quantities sold out fast each time.

Ms Bell, 27, says: “Mortlach was considered a secret weapon for whisky blenders as it adds backbone, body and character to whiskies, with its muscular flavour that intensifies whisky blends.”

She was in town last month to launch the Scotch line here.

All four of its expressions – the no-age-statement Rare Old ($108) and Special Strength ($150.10 this month, the price varies every month) as well as the 18-Year-Old ($360) and 25-Year-Old whiskies ($1,200)–are available here.

All are sold at e-retailer Whisky World, except for the Special Strength, which is available only at the duty-free shops in Changi Airport.

The Mortlach 18-Year-Old has moreish tasting notes of dark chocolate, espresso, salted caramel toffee and burnt orange, which Ms Bell likens to “scrapping the caramelised burnt ends of a Sunday roast”.

The 25-Year-Old has creamy notes of white chocolate, jasmine tea, cedarwood salt caramel and vanilla toffee.

After being matured in sherry and bourbon casks, the whiskies undergo a unique and complicated distillation process, during which the tipple is distilled 2.81 times.

Three types of distillate streams – malty, light and fruity, and robust – are produced and later combined to produce Mortlach whiskies. Ms Bell says: “Unlike typical Speyside whiskies which are usually mellow and fruity, this distillation process gives Mortlach a robust and thick richness, with a bold umamiled flavour.”

She was initiated into the spirits world at 18 as a part-time cocktail bartender while pursuing a geography degree at the University of Edinburgh.

The “fun and sociable job” led to her concocting her favourite cocktails, such as the Old Fashioned, which is made with whisky, sugar and Angostura bitters.

That grew into a fascination with the plethora of whisky bottles on the back bar.

She says: “ Whisky is so soughtafter in Scotland, but I didn’t know much then and wondered why everyone loves it so much, so I wanted to learn the heritage, production and nuances and how to use Scotch in cocktails to showcase its versatility.”

After graduation, she took a diploma course in distillation with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and was also a brand ambassador for an independent bottler, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

The youngest brand ambassador in the Diageo group hopes to inject versatility when it comes to drinking whisky and loves pairing whiskies with dark chocolate and charcuteries.

She says: “I may be younger than my peers, but we are all trying to open up the vibrancy of using whisky, be it having it with soda or cocktails.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline ''. Print Edition | Subscribe