Mortlach distillery

Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The wash (from clear wort and long fermentation) is split between three wash stills; No. 3 wash still and No.3 spirit still work in tandem and as per normal.

The low wines from wash stills No. 1 and 2 is, however, split into two parts. The first 80% of the run is collected as the charge for spirit still No. 2. The remaining 20% (called weak feints) forms the charge for spirit still No.1 otherwise known as ‘The Wee Witchie’. This distils the weak feints three times with only the heart of the final run being collected. It all adds up to the new make spirit having been distilled 2.81 times.

In addition to this, all the stills are run relatively speedily with no air rests to rejuvenate the copper and all lyne arms running into cold worm tubs. The result of this complex regime in a copper-starved environment is a building up of sulphur and ‘meatiness’ in the new make spirit, with the ‘dud runs’ on the Wee Witchie providing an extra meaty boost. Although it is aged in a mix of casks, Mortlach’s weight makes it an ideal partner with ex-Sherry casks.

While other meaty spirits are made [most notably Benrinnes and Dailuaine] none have Mortlach’s weight, meaning that this is a highly-prized base note for blends. As a result, there has been little stock available for single malt bottlings bar the occasional independent bottlings (most notably with Gordon & MacPhail) and small batches of a 16-year-old in Diageo’s Flora & Fauna range. Mortlach seemed destined to remain a cult malt.

In 2014, however, that changed with the launch of a four-strong range: Rare Old, Special Strength, (both no-age-statement), 18-year-old, and 25-year-old.

  • Region
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status

Mortlach History

Mortlach was the name of the original village which sprang up around the abbey of the name, founded by Saint Moluag in the 7th century. With the building of Dufftown in 1817 the old name fell in abeyance – apart from the distillery.

The distillery was the first to be licensed within Dufftown, being founded by James Findlater, Donald Mackintosh and Alex Gordon in 1823. It passed briefly into the hands of the Grant brothers of Glen Grant fame who gutted the buildings and used the equipment for their distillery in Rothes.

It was George Cowie and his son Alexander who, from the 1850s on, recommenced whisky production and steered Mortlach to a pre-eminent position as a blending malt.

Although no-one is sure where the unique distillation regime originated, its adherence to richness and weight singles Mortlach out as one of the distilleries with a robust belief in the older ways of making whisky.

It remained in the Cowie’s hands until 1923 when it became part of John Walker & Sons and from there via DCL into Diageo.

In 2014, it was announced that a mirror image of the existing distillery would be built which, when completed, will double total capacity.


  • 1823 James Findlater, Donald Mackintosh and Alex Gordon found Mortlach
  • 1824 Findlater steps back from the project, leaving the distillery to Gordon and Mackintosh
  • 1831 John Robertson purchases Mortlach for £270, who then sells is to A&T Gregory the following year
  • 1837 Grant brothers, James and John, become part-owners and gut the distillery
  • 1853 George Cowie becomes part owner, and takes over sole operation when John Alexander Gordon dies in 1867
  • 1895 Cowie's son, Alexander, joins the company and two years later extends Mortlach's stills from three to six
  • 1923 John Walker & Sons purchase the distillery from the Cowies
  • 1925 The group becomes part of Distillers Company Limited
  • 1968 Mortlach halts use of its floor maltings
  • 2014 Four new bottlings are released as Diageo announces plans to extend the distillery

Mortlach Facts

  • Condenser Type i
    Worm tub
  • Fermentation Time i
    Minimum 53hrs
  • Filling Strength i
  • Grist Weight (t) i
  • Heat Source i
  • Malt Specification i
    Non peated
  • Malt Supplier i
    Mainly in house
  • Mash Tun Type i
  • New-make Phenol Level i
    Non peaty
  • New-make Strength i
  • Spirit Still Charge (l) i
  • Spirit Still Shape i
    Neck ball
  • Stills i
    6 (1 intermediate)
  • Wash Still Charge (l) i
  • Wash Still Shape i
    Neck ball
  • Washback Type i
  • Washbacks i
  • Water Source i
    Conval Hills Spring
  • Wort Clarity i
  • Yeast Type i


Current owner

Previous owners

  • United Distillers 1986 - 1997
  • Distillers Company Limited 1925 - 1986
  • John Walker & Sons 1923 - 1925
  • George Cowie & Son 1867 - 1923
  • John Gordon and George Cowie 1853 - 1867
  • John Gordon 1842 - 1853
  • J&J Grant 1837 - 1842
  • A&T Gregory 1832 - 1837
  • John Robertson 1831 - 1832
  • Donald Mackintosh and Alex Gordon 1824 - 1831
  • James Findlater, Donald Mackintosh and Alex Gordon 1823 - 1824


Mortlach Distillery
AB55 4AQ
United Kingdom
+44 1340 820318
Visitor Opening Hours
Not open to the public


See also

  • Auchroisk Auchroisk Auchroisk Distillery & brand


    One of Diageo’s ‘nutty-spicy’ sites.

  • Benrinnes Benrinnes Benrinnes Distillery & brand


    A highly individual Speyside whisky.

  • Blair Athol Blair Athol Blair Athol Distillery & brand

    Blair Athol

    The home of Bell's blended whisky.

  • Caol Ila Caol Ila Caol Ila Distillery & brand

    Caol Ila

    Islay distillery belonging to Diageo.

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