Mortlach’s warehouse was home to one of the first hydraulic lifts in Scotland. It was installed in 1897 to help lift whisky casks to the higher floors and has only just been replaced
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How to pronouce Mortlach? mort-lack
Mortlach is a distillery in the heart of the Speyside region of Scotland. It is located in the town of Dufftown and was the first of the famous seven distilleries to be built in the town in 1823. Mortlach was the only distillery in Dufftown for over 60 years, until former distillery employee William Grant founded Glenfiddich. The distillery is currently owned by Diageo and has a capacity of 3 million litres per year. The whisky produced at Mortlach is very popular with blenders and the majority gets tied up in blending contracts, especially Diageo’s own Johnnie Walker range. As a result, Mortlach single malts are hard to find with only a 16 years old (part of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range) and a limited edition 32 years old being released by Diageo. Independent bottlings are more frequent.
Mortlach is well known for their use of quality sherry casks during maturation but also for their rich robust spirit. This is produced in one of the most idiosyncratic stillrooms in the whisky industry. There are only six stills but each one is a different shape and size, as each was added on at different times. One is named ‘Wee Witchie’ and spirit that passes through it is distilled three times, compared to the regular two times elsewhere in Scotland and also in the other stills at Mortlach.
The distillery was founded in 1823 by James Findlater, following the legalisation of the whisky industry with the Excise Act in the same year. It was built on land leased from the Earl of MacDuff and Findlater was joined in 1824 by Donald MacIntosh and Alexander Gordon. Mortlach then changed hands no less than four times in its first 15 years. The final owners were James and John Grant, who decided to dismantle the equipment and move it to start up Glen Grant distillery in a different part of the Speyside region. That was in 1837 and Mortlach did not start production again until 1851, when it was taken over by John Gordon and George Cowie. In the previous years, part of the distillery had been used as a brewery and another section was made into a chapel and was used by The Free Church of Scotland. Gordon later became the mayor of Dufftown, before dying in 1867, which allowed Cowie to take sole charge. Mortlach remained in Cowie’s family until 1923, when his grandson decided to sell to John Walker & Sons who wanted it to secure the whisky for their blended ranges. This is the first instance of the distillery’s association with the Johnnie Walker blends, which has carried on ever since. John Walker & Sons later became part of DCL (Distillers Company Limited), which in turn became United Distillers, which in turn became today’s owners Diageo.