Mortlach is the oldest distillery in the famous Speyside whisky town of Dufftown. The expressive single malt has a cult following amongst whisky drinkers and owners Diageo have it as one of their premium single malt brands.

The whole Mortlach distillery area with a focus on its special pagoda rooftop viewed from behind some bare tree branches
Mortlach Distillery, Speyside


Mortlach is known for its robust and heavy style of single malt. This is often described as rich, meaty and savoury. There are not many distilleries producing this style of spirit and this makes Mortlach popular for use in blends.

The single malt releases can divide opinion due to the robust and savoury nature of the spirit. This heavy style is suited to maturation in ex-sherry casks. The core range features four whiskies at 12 (Wee Witchie), 14 (Alexander's Way), 16 (Distiller's Dram) and 20 (Cowie's Blue Seal) years of age. They all feature ex-sherry casks, plus ex-American whiskey barrels. Other expressions of note include premium historical bottlings in the Rare Malts series and Diageo Special Releases, plus current releases in Diageo's Game of Thrones and Prima & Ultima collections.

Barley grains
Mix of berries (blueberries, bramble and raspberries)
Vanilla pods with flower head of vanilla plant
Honey glazed ham cut open with one lice peeling from the ham


Mortlach produces 3.7 million litres each year, and it has a couple of interesting quirks. Firstly, they ferment their mash for two differing times - a short fermentation of 55 hours and a much longer one at 110 hours. The longer fermentation produces heavier fruit characteristics with the shorter one giving freshness and vibrancy. There are currently 12 mashes per week with six follow one timing and six the other.

The second quirk is a peculiar 2.81 times distillation. This sees 80% of the spirit distilled twice and the remainder distilled three times through a separate still named Wee Witchie. The resulting spirits are then married together before being filled to casks for maturation. Mortlach is also one of the few distilleries in Scotland to still use worm tub condensers. A traditional method for condensing vapour back to a spirit where a copper pipe spirals down through a tub of cold water.


Mortlach was founded in 1823 by James Findlater. It was the first distillery built in the new town of Dufftown, which was just six years old at the time. It was not joined by another distillery for 60 years until William Grant built Glenfiddich. Grant had worked at Mortlach for 20 years, including a spell as distillery manager. The distillery had a chequered history during its early years. There were numerous changes of ownership and a 15 year-long period of closure. It spanned the late 1830s to the early 1850s. During this time the buildings were used as a part-time village hall, church and brewery amongst other things.

Bird view on the whole Mortlach distillery area located among fields and trees going bald in autumn
The iconic Mortlach distillery from afar

The key date in Mortlach's history is 1853. This is when George Cowie, a local engineer, took ownership. Under his leadership, Mortlach established itself as a premium malt for both blenders and private customers. This work was later carried on by his son Alexander upon George's death in the 1890s.

Mortlach became part of John Walker & Sons in the 1920s. It has historically been an important component in the hugely popular Johnnie Walker Black Label, and remains so today. The current owners of Diageo see Mortlach as strategically important. They launched it as a premium single malt brand in 2014. The core range received mixed reviews and later evolved into the current range in 2018. Mortlach is also used as a key ingredient within other blended whiskies in their Scotch portfolio.