The nose on the Mortlach 21 Year Old 2020 Special Release opens with a hybrid made by a CRISPR-oriented, eco-biochemist who wants to grow cherry orchards in the Australian Outback. Towards that, cherry-bearing tree genes were spliced into those of the Austrocylindropuntia exaltata, more commonly known as Eve’s Needle Cactus. A remarkable hybrid was achieved, but the scientist was confused on a key point: Eve’s Needle natural habitats are in Bolivia and Peru. Oops. As a result, there are notes of heathery fruitsicles, a teak and rosewood cheese board after the consumption of all the Vermont-based Jasper Hill’s Harbison Cheese, and the happy dreams of your 4yo grandchild. Mellow and inviting, we detect subtle rosemary, exuberant Sauzee Lady white peaches, and the smell of your firstborn’s fontanelle after their first bath. There’s also sofa upholstery recovering from the cask-aged limoncello spilled on it during the last salon held at your house before Solstice. (Yes, you invited both Wiccans and Lutherans, you ecumenical host!)
The mouth is a delicious deep dark pond in whose depths you see mermaids singing. And hear them swimming! (Synesthesia is sometimes a wonderful condition.) The Beast of Dufftown is not tamed by water; no, it is unleashed! Transfigured. More an entranced dragon released from its enchantment by eating a virgin, turning into a unicorn, than, well, an angrier dragon. We got scented teenagers in a Parisian—or was it Persian?—mall, walking about with the uncomplicated joy of being unconcerned about the future beyond the next weekend. No FOMO here, except the fear of missing out on the dram.
The finish is longer than a round trip jaunt to the moon and back…from JUPITER! Even at light speed, that’s going take you at least an hour. Butterscotch of the Gods. Caramel of the Angels. There’s wood, too, but it’s the zelkova maplewood headcradle hand-carved for you by a Japanese Living Treasure that you’re relaxing into after a day’s practice with your sensei, as you seek to move to the next level of your kendo training. On the finely calibrated dollars-to-deliciousness scale, the needle points to YUM! It’s a characteristic expression of the House of Mortlach, but one with Jackson Pollackesque drippings of manna from heaven, ennobling the backdrop as stars turn eternal void into the nighttime sky.
On the scale of projects that confront human mortality, and poke it in the eye, laughing at it all the while–
The Mortlach 21 Year Old Special Release is the John Cage piece now known as Organ²/ASLSP–The tempo instruction was “As slow as possible.” The John Cage Organ Foundation in Halberstadt decided to take that literally, and peg the playing to the life expectancy of an organ, in this case, 639 years. Thus, in a medieval church, it has been playing since 2001. In September of 2020, it had its first chord change since 2013. A quintet of notes that sound for seven years? A piece that will finish in 2640? Mortlach and John Cage, ringing through the ages together!
–Our thanks to Diageo for the sample!