Glenfarclas 105 vs Mortlach 13-Year-Old

Well, it’s the end of 2021, and although the world is out there celebrating “something”, inside it’s just another night, which will roll into a new day, and so on, till our home remains within the orbit. So instead of doomsday thoughts, I choose to focus on the whisky. For this round, I select two Speyside distilleries, which are about a fifteen-minute drive apart. But as we’ve learned, it’s not about a geographical location any longer. So much has changed in the whisky-making biz that we need to dig further to unveil. So let’s dive in, but first, you know that we need music! Now playing: Rutger HoedemaekersThe Age Of Oddities.

At 60% ABV, the Glenfarclas needs water. Some recommend a very small drop – but I just can’t drink my Scotch at 59%. I have to bring it down, down, down to somewhere around 45% or so. One place offered a calculator whereby to go from 60% to 45%, you need to dilute 1 litre of alcohol with 0.33 litres of water. I picked the original numbers to be round to show you that actually, you need to add precisely a third of the water – which means for a 30ml dram, you add 10ml water to go from 60% to 45%. Whoah – that sounds like a lot, but if you try it, it’s spot on! At 45%, the Glenfarclas is smooth and round, with plenty of toffee notes, sweet Christmas cake, and just a slight tinge of bitterness in all the right places. And as the producer proclaims themselves, “being so warming, this is the perfect Hogmanay dram.” And “Hogmanay” is the Scots word for the last day of the old year – so it’s appropriate! The 105 is cask strength, and for £53, you get a lot more whisky in the bottle. The story goes that George S Grant would pick a single cask to share with his friends for Christmas. “He bottled these whiskies at their natural strength, a gesture of generosity and a testament to the quality of the spirit.” And this is how in 1968, Glenfarclas became the first distillery to introduce a cask strength in its core range. This sherried dram earns all of the awards and definitely deserves a spot among the favourites.

At 55.9%, the Mortlach “natural cask strength” looks and feels a lot more floral. There is no sherry in this malt, and that clearly shows in flavour and in colour. This is a 13-year-old cask strength single malt, available as part of Diageo‘s 2021 Special Releases. It comes in at £135 and should be very special, but it’s not. I think the price is hiked up for no reason whatsoever, except that, well, it will be bought nevertheless. And yes, I’ve got a bottle of my own, along with all the rest in this collected series. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great dram [I’m just reflecting on the price, not on the gorgeous whisky]. Matured in a combination of virgin and refill American oak casks, it permeates of wood, some herb, and citrus on the nose. It feels like pure and temperate distil, although it does not mention that it is uncoloured. Dubbed as “The Beast of Dufftown“, this single malt depicts the wolf for this year’s “Legends Untold” inspired series. My favourite of Mortlach still remains the 16-year-old [Flora & Fauna series] from back before Diageo began to push it into the spotlight. But it’s a very clean, straightforward, punchy dram, one which I wouldn’t mind comparing to another virgin filling like The Glenlivet Nàdurra matured in First Fill American White Oak or Auchentoshan Virgin Oak or maybe that Balvenie Single Barrel 12!

With all that being said, this was a surprisingly good pairing, and I am virtually patting myself on the back for the pick, although upon some more reflection, the next time, I will try and match the wood. I had a sip of each malt, back and forth, and for the first time, I was not sure which one I’d pick the winner. I love the Mortlach, it’s unpretentious and direct, and I appreciate the flavour of unadulterated whisky. I think the only thing that puts me off is that high price, at which I wouldn’t blink if it was from a single barrel. And yet Glenfarclas hits high notes and then invites to try out older bottlings. And it’s New Year’s after all, and with that said, I’ll say that the Glenfarclas wins this round.

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