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Diageo Relaunches Mortlach Globally with Four New Expressions

Ian Buxton; photos by the author

Diageo has announced the global launch, effective mid-2014, of four new expressions from their renowned Speyside single malt distillery, Mortlach.

The Mortlach stillhouse.
The new products are Mortlach Rare Old (43.4%, non-age), Mortlach Special Strength (49%, non-age, non-chill-filtered, travel retail exclusive), Mortlach 18 Years Old and Mortlach 25 Years Old (both 43.4%).

Prices are expected to start around the current level of Diageo brands such as Johnnie Walker Platinum, though final details of pricing, promotion and packaging will not be released until next year. Mortlach is to be positioned as a luxury, not super-premium, style and a company spokesman described this release as seeking to "define luxury for single malt, becoming the next great luxury brand."
At the same time the current 16 Years Old expression in the Flora & Fauna range will be discontinued as stocks run out.

This announcement follows the earlier news that the distillery-noted for its unusual distillation style of almost-triple distilling-will be doubled in scale, with a new still house comprising mash tun, washbacks, stills and worm tubs, at a cost of some £30m (approx. $48.5m). In order to protect Mortlach's highly distinctive flavor profile, every aspect of the new plant is designed to be an exact replica of the present operation, something described as "idiosyncratic-definitely not state of the art." This is expected to be operational by November 2015. 

Distilling began on the Mortlach site prior to 1823.

Mortlach has long been appreciated by single malt lovers for its "meaty," full flavor, and Diageo insists this will not change. Despite persistent requests to release further stocks to the single malt market, supply has been constrained by the requirements of the blending team and the move to release the aged casks required for the new expressions has been three years in the planning.

The non-age Rare Old style and the 18 and 25 Years Old will all be available to all of Diageo's domestic markets, while the stronger Special Strength will initially be exclusive to travel retail.

A senior company insider described the Mortlach re-launch as "our biggest initiative in single malt in the last ten years."

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