pairing bridge over spey

Mortlach 15 Year Old Gordon & MacPhail with Tatuaje Havana VI Angeles Cigar and Dark Grigottine  Bonbon

spicesThis month our lightly spicy selection comes from Whisky Specialist Gordon & MacPhail.  They are classed as an "Independent Bottler", a group of twenty plus companies that play an important role in delivering variety to the marketplace of scotch.  Independent bottlers buy new make spirit from distilleries then choose their own method of finish maturation.  They warehouse the spirit, and bottle these malts under their own label.  Independent Bottlers are not expected by the public to deliver a consistent "house style" like big brand distilleries.  They are lauded for their experimentation and risk taking.  This often results in an exciting alternative flavor profile from the parent distillery bottling.  They are also know to deliver extremely rare expressions.  This may be due to age, or because a particular spirit was in short supply.  Independent Bottlers have been critical in rescuing cask stocks from closed distilleries whose legacy would have been lost too soon.

Our scotch selection this month is Mortlach 15 year old from Gordon & MacPhail.  In their 115th year in business they are recognized as one of the most prestigious and award winning Independent Bottlers.  Gordon & MacPhail has released hundreds of expressions in its lifetime and currently holds substantial stock including rare and extremely old casks.  This Elgin based company exports 60% of all its bottled product.

mortlach15gm 120Mortlach 15 year old reminds one of a spicy well made Christmas fruitcake.  This flavor profile is evidenced in both aroma and palate.  Candied orange and golden raisins provide a delicately sweet balance to the sherry edge.  There is a hint of vanilla and a lightly spicy finish.  Overall the first fill and refill sherry cask maturation does not dominate the character, but is beautifully integrated with the other flavors in this dram.  We find it to be a superbly drinkable malt with a palate considered somewhat delicate, but still complex and satisfying. Mortlach was the first of seven distilleries to be built around Dufftown and is owned by Diageo.  Through a unique process the spirit is distilled two and one half times and the unique worm tubes used to condense the spirit are thought to be responsible for delivering the subtle complexity of its flavor. 

dark grignottine lighter pnWe have paired the Mortlach 15 with the Dark Grignottine bonbon from Chuao.  The crunchiness of the carmelized almonds and pistachios serve as a great textural counterpart to the subtleness of this dram.  The candied orange peel of the confection mimics the orange sherriness of this malt.  Dark chocolate brings out the hint of chocolate in this whisky that was not at first apparent.



tatuaje havana vi stickIndependents are not only a phenomenon of the whisky industry. Since debuting in 2003, Pete Johnson's Tatuaje cigars have been receiving great acclaim from the cigar community, the critics and the customers alike. Rolled in Jose Pepin Garcia's El Rey de los Habanos factory in Miami, the cigars are Nicaraguan puros, but utilize a creative mix of tobaccos to re-create the flavors and properties of an archetypal Cuban cigar. 

pjohnsonPete Johnson is not your ordinary cigar manufacturer though, actually he is not a manufacturer at all. He is a cigar designer, by his own account. Similar to an independent bottler in the whisky industry, Pete develops flavor concepts, and then works with the factories to select the tobacco, fabricate, roll and produce the final product. Pete chose well when he developed his relationship with Tabacalera Tropical, as lately anything Pepin touches turns to gold, especially his own tobacco blends. And by utilizing only the best torcedors, the best tobacco, and limiting production, the cigars Pepin's group is producing for Tatuaje maintain high quality and impeccable construction standards.

This is what independents can do best for the industry. While the larger manufacturers focus their energies on developing their mainstay brands, dealing with all the myriad details of tobacco growing, harvesting, processing, and cigar fabrication; the Pete Johnsons of the world come in with different concepts, tweak the status quo, find the edge, and set new standards, and brands, along the way.  Lucky for us, as we the consumer get the benefit of the creativity of guys like him.

Released in 2006, the Tatuaje Havana VI uses the Nicaraguan Corojo 99 wrapper, and Nicaraguan binder and filler, but some volado leaf in used in the filler, instead of ligero, making this blend different. The Havana VI name comes from the concept of six classic Cuban vitolas which make up the line.  Creatively, the first letter of each vitola spells out "Havana", the name of the cigar line, and the name of Pete Johnson's dog.

The Angeles size has received rave reviews since its inception, and is notably peppery and spicy, while maintaining a sweetness at the same time. In classic Cuban tradition, it begins with a medium strength and then builds towards the end. It is the complex flavor profile that really makes the Havana VI a treat, and the vanilla and gingerbread sweetness that matches the Mortlach single malt so well.   


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