I wasn't impressed when I first opened it, but after a while, this bottle has really grown on me. The wood is very present for "only" 18 years of age, but since it's just a part of the overall experience and the whole of it is so well-balanced and multifaceted, the drying oak tannins actually fit in nicely. Soft sherry and big, fat spirit: a match made in malt heaven. Surprising amounts of depth and character, especially considering the age and price bracket.
Classic refill sherry nose with very fine, delicate and fragrant oak (I would guess quercus alba, but I'can't be 100% sure). Behind the wood lies a beautiful mix of malty spirit notes and cocoa and roast coffee aromas that remind me of cognac-filled chocolate pralines and espresso powder. Definitely also some caramel and/or fudge. The fruits are less prominent, it's more of a jammy sweet-and-sour vibe in the background - perhaps apricot and orange marmelade? Extremely fragrant and full, with a lot of depth and great texture. Water dials down the sherry a bit and reveals more Speyside character: it becomes more buttery, more floral and complex.
Juicy attack, then already quite some astringency to begin with, very drying, but at the same time the acidity makes your mouth water, so the effects kind of balance each other out. Intense mouthfeel, with sweet-and-sour notes, tannins and spices all vying for dominance. Again a lot of coffee and dark chocolate, but this time alongside a more pronounced orange (perhaps even blood orange) flavor. Jaffa cakes, dry oak, sour berries, mousse au chocolat. Takes a bit of water, but it's more impressive - and sweet - at cask strength.
Dry in the mouth but warming and sweet in the throat, with lingering associations of chocolates and timeworn oak, plus this gooseberry acidity that is so typical of Mortlach.
It starts with vanila, some white pepper, herbs, some bitter tones, dark fruits, hints of nuts. The best part for me was the finish where the sherry was clearly visible, fine long lasting finish. Good dram, quite complex vut still not my favorite