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KWM Advent 2018 Day 4: Old Malt Cask Mortlach 11 Year KWM Cask

Posted on November 30, 2022

by Andrew

We have a notable first here on Day 4 of the 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Calendar. This is the first whisky we have ever had from Hunter Laing & Co., in any of our five editions of our KWM Whisky Advent Calendars produced in-house. And there is a good reason for this as the bottle might attest.

Prior to our request for Hunter Laing to bottle our exclusive Old Malt Cask Mortlach 11-Year KWM Cask for the Calendar, Hunter Laing had never before bottled a whisky in 50ml format. As you can see, today's whisky does not have a glamorous or beautiful label, but I hope you will agree all of the important details are there (save for mention of KWM) and the liquid is always the most important part!

Image courtesy of @frombarreltobottle

This label came as a bit of a surprise to us, though in fairness we may have been told it didn't have a proper label and forgot! But we are very proud of this malt nonetheless, and we are thrilled to include it in our Calendar this year. We launched full-sized bottles of this cask just over a month ago with a tasting hosted by Andrew Laing, one of Hunter Laing's owners, at the shop. There was a slight miscommunication with the importer, and in addition to the 700mls, we have more 50ml bottles of the whisky than expected. So we are excited to be able to offer our cask both in full size and miniature form. There is just one catch, the extra minis for sale have the same logo as the one in your Calendar so we have ordered a miniaturized version of the Old Malt Cask Label that will closely approximate the full-sized bottle. We should have these labels in-store early next week and the bottles will be on sale shortly thereafter. So if you want to order a few more, we won't say no.

Hunter Laing is a relatively new independent bottler, but as its Old Malt Cask brand will attest, it has much older roots. Hunter Laing was formed in 2013 when Fred and Stewart Laing decided to divide up their family business. Douglas Laing & Co. had operated since 1948 when it was founded by their father Fred Douglas Laing. Fred Douglas blended his own whiskies and began a filling program for casks, both malt and grain, that continues to this day. Fred and Stuart joined the firm in the 1970s and succeeded their father on his passing in 1982.

Fred Douglas Laing

Over the course of the 1980s, the firm shifted its focus away from blends and towards bottling single malts including their Old Malt Cask line. During this period they acquired an impressive inventory of whiskies, including considerable quantities from closed distilleries like Port Ellen and Rosebank, whose owners desperately needed the cash. Demand for these whiskies soared through the mid-2000s and into the 2010s. In 2013 when the brothers decided to take separate paths, they divvied up the brands and their inventory. Fred kept the Douglas Laing name for his firm and was joined in the business by his daughter Cara. Stewart set off under the banner of Hunter Laing and was joined by his sons Scott and Andrew. Andrew was already independently in the business with his own brand, Edition Spirits, aka First Editions. Stewart may not have left the corporate divorce with the firm name, but he did keep its two strongest brands, Old & Rare and Old Malt Cask.

Hunter Laing has thrived in its first five years as an independent firm, growing their Old Malt Cask, Old & Rare and First Editions lines. They have also opened a distillery on Islay, Ardnahoe, situated between Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain on the island's northeast coast. The first spirit ran from the stills in early November of this year!

Mortlach is a single malt whisky which has not yet had its due. Highly respected by blenders, it was only very seldom seen as a single malt, and usually from independent bottlers. Blenders loved working with it because its spirit has a meaty-sulphury style matched by few distilleries. Mortlach has an unusual setup with a confusing fractal distillation method, which results in a 2.81 times distilled spirit. Its famous Wee Witchie still plays a part in this. Crucial to its sulphury spirit profile, the stills are run quickly to reduce copper contact with the vapours rapidly falling down the lyne arm to condense in the cold worm tubs.

Prior to 2014, when Diageo launched the first core range of Mortlach expressions, the only official bottling was a 16 year old Flora & Fauna release available at Diageo visitor centers. Through the 1990s and 2000s, Mortlach gained a reputation for quality from the bottlings released by independent bottlers. Diageo set about to capitalize on this success, but disastrously set their sights too high for the brand. Mortlach was positioned as the new Macallan, or at least as a rival brand, and it never caught on. Tail tucked between their legs, Diageo has just re-released a rebranded Mortlach range.

Old Malt Cask Mortlach 11 Year - 50% - Refill Hogshead -

Andrew's Tasting Note

Nose: apple-cinnamon pastries, dried pineapple chunks, vanilla extract and white chocolate bars with cocoa nibs; silky malty, soft citrus and decadent honey.

Palate: soft, malty, honeyed and sweet; loads of white fruit, sliced pear and more warm apple-cinnamon pastries; fruity, a touch of melon, more tart pineapple and crisp citrus tones; floral vanilla and white chocolate with cocoa nibs; warming and toasty.

Finish: fresh, malty and honeyed; white and citrus fruits fade slowly along with some spices, warm pastry and raw cocoa.

Comment: I remember when we selected the cask, I had very low expectations, they were shattered; for $95 a bottle it is a gem.” - $95 / $12 for the mini bottle version

Playing catch-up on our 2018 Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar?

You can find the rest of the blog posts here!

This entry was posted in Whisky, KWM Whisky Calendar 2018, Whisky Calendars, Independent Bottler



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