Dufftown Double Duel

Taste Review #32 – Mortlach 16 Flora and Fauna vs Pittyvaich 12 Flora and Fauna

Continuing from my tour of Speyside, and once again in the Seven Stills, one of the things I noticed about their whisky is that it had a high proportion of the Flora and Fauna bottlings. As you should now know, I have a soft spot for these bottles. Not all of them are rare, but some are harder than others to get and some are never really seen in a bar.

However, out of the four Flora and Fauna bottles that originated from Dufftown (Glendullan, Dufftown, Mortlach and Pittyvaich), three of them still live on as a distinct distillery range. However, Pittyvaich is a lost distillery, and will eventually become harder to find.

Mortlach distillery was the first legal distillery to open in Dufftown after the 1823 distillery licencing reform, and was the only distillery in Dufftown until Glenfiddich opened. In 1923, the distillery was bought by John Walker and Sons, and from there through various takeovers and mergers came to be owned by Diageo, its current owners. Mortlach has adopted a 2.81 distillation regime, which is similar to that formerly practiced at Benrinnes.

Mortlach Distillery

Pittyvaich, prior to the founding of Kininvie was the youngest distillery in Dufftown, being completed in 1974, alongside Dufftown distillery. It was founded by Arthur Bell to provide spirit for their blends, and in turn and the usual changes of hands, it passed into the ownership of Diageo. Unfortunately, things didn’t end so well for Pittyvaich, and it only produced for 19 years. It later was used to produce Gordons Gin, and as a Diageo training facility until 2003 when the buildings were demolished. Some of the equipment went to Clynelish disiltillery, so a little bit of Pittyvaich survives somewhere.

Pittyvaich Distillery (RCAHMS)

Dufftown is essentially the home of Speyside whisky, with 6 producing distilleries – Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie, Mortlach, Glendullan and Dufftown. There are two more silent distilleries – Parkmore and Convalmore, both of which have been dismantled and are now used for storage.

There isn’t a lot to do in Dufftown, but there is the Whisky Shop Dufftown in the centre of the village, as well as several bars, restaurants and takeaways. You aren’t far away from the Speyside Cooperage and Macallan Distilleries if you don’t fancy touring Glenfiddich or can’t get a place on the Balvenie tour. There is also the option of nearby GlenAllachie distillery just south of Aberlour.

Onto our business of wetting our thrapple


Region

Speyside

Age

Mortlach 16 years / Pittyvaich 12 years

Strength

Both at 43% a.b.v

Colour

Mortlach – Gold

Pittyvaich– Dark Amber.

Nose

Mortlach – Heavy sherry. Milky caramel, oak, vanilla. Bit of spicy oak.

Pittyvaich – Sherry sweet smoke, sultana, bit of orange peel.

Mortlach. The Beast of Dufftown

Taste

Mortlach – O-M-G. Christmas cake in a bottle. Sherry notes, citrus peel, slight hint of green apple, very rich.

Pittyvaich – wow. Smooth as anything. Nutty vanilla, toffee, raisin, spice

Pittyvaich

Finish

Mortlach Medium sweet, fruit, apples with a short blast of spice.

Pittyvaich – Long and dry, mostly vanilla and creamy caramel. Bit of smoke.

Conclusion

It’s not what you might expect. It certainly wasn’t what I expected. Mortlach has a great reputation, and the Mortlach Flora and Fauna bottling was probably the highest revered out of all of them; certainly the sherried ones. But for me, I’m surprised to tell you that the Pittyvaich for me was much better. It had a good mouth feel, the arrival was so smooth, and wasn’t so spirit led.

Pittyvaich Control (RCAHMS)

Of course, I have no way of knowing how long each bottle has been open, as whisky does degrade very slowly in the bottle due to oxidation. Has this played a part? I can’t tell, as I have no idea what a freshly opened bottle tastes like. What I can tell you is this:-

⁃ both were delicious

⁃ both are chill filtered

⁃ both have E150a colouring

⁃ both bottles are discontinued

⁃ no more Pittyvaich is being made

⁃ There still is a Mortlach 16 made at 43.4%

You might be lucky and find these bottles in your friendly specialist whisky retail shop, but chances are that they have just bought it at auction and are reselling. Prices for Mortlach range from £130 to £160. You might get lucky and get one with a wooden box. Pittyvaich wasn’t such a popular whisky, but pricing is slightly lower, between £100 and £150 on average. Both bottlings initially came with the white cap and will command more money.

There aren’t many independent bottles of Pittyvaich either. A handful from Duncan Taylor, Gordon & Macphail and Douglas Laing, but really the Flora and Fauna release and a couple of special releases are all you will get as official bottles. Grab it while you can to taste it.

1st Edition Mortlach (whiskyhammer.com)

I’d certainly recommend tasting both of these whiskies at some point in your journey. I’m glad I have without having to open my collection.

You can always visit the Seven Stills in Dufftown, as their bottles won’t last forever, and you’ll get a decent feed and service from owners Ros and Patrick.

Slainte Mhath!


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photo credits

– authors own unless otherwise credited