The nose of the Mortlach 18 is both restrained and singular, like Secretariat in the gate before winning the Triple Crown running away. It’s crouched and ready to spring, and the sherry notes meme-like insinuate themselves into my consciousness like the portentous first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony Bum, bum, bum, BAUM! Bum, bum, bum, BAUM! Miniature explosions held back by the conductor, unleashing primal drives that we didn’t even know we possessed! We got the burgundy ball dress worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind that was seized by J. Edgar Hoover under trumped-up pretexts, and brought out for special parties by mirrors and candlelight. Truman Capote bought it at the estate sale, and then it moved on, its provenance temporarily forgotten, to a pinewood closet. Sure, the Harry K. Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin thinks they have the real one, but we all know the truth. There also are tarts made with Braeburn apples, Comice pears, and kiwis blanketed between avocado slices. There are dissertations waiting to be written here.
On the mouth, Stephen got a Moldavian meat market. When pressed, he said that it just reminded him of that, and that taste was subjective, and there followed a long disquisition in which he unsuccessfully sought to make us forget the phrase “Moldavian meat market.” I take him to mean that there’s a richness of sausages spiced with herbs grown in gardens out back, soaked in beer, and made from animals that were they in America would be deemed to have been raised artisanally. Also, the shop is festooned with cleavers and knives that are centuries old, but cleaned daily, honed and whetted as needed, and evoking the expertise that comes with long practice and use. We also got an out-of-wedlock Parisian amour in a house of nobility and a golden note piercing through the sherry cavalcade. Is it calling the calvary? No, it’s Puck playing a penny whistle whilst reading a gripping penny dreadful. Also: buttercream-frosted fruitcake drafted into service as a birthday cake for a toddler still too young to complain.
There follows a drying, a puckering, chewy, smackalicious unrepentant peat take-over heralding the finish. If it were a Beatles’ chorus, it would be “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” It’s rich and spreading, like a Northumbrian estate. [Note: We don’t really know if there are rich estates in Northumbria, but we do know once was the most badass silver penny ever, that of Eric the Bloodaxe, King of Northumbria, to be found there.] The finish goes from slo-mo to full speed or even double-speed, like a great film effect that carries emotional resonance as well as visual pop.
–Our thanks to Georgie Bell and Mortlach for the sample!