Mannochmore Distillery is located south of Elgin in Speyside, and is a relatively young distillery having 'only' opened in 1971. It's currently owned by Diageo, and shares its site and water source with Glenlossie Distillery, and for a time the two distilleries were operated by the same staff on a 6-monthly alternating roster. Mannochmore is quite a large distillery though, with a current annual capacity of over four million litres via its four pairs of stills, and warehouse space for over 200,000 casks on-site (which also store whisky from other Diageo distilleries), and since 2008 has had its own separate staff. Like many distilleries at the time the distillery was 'mothballed' in the 1980s for five or so years, and again in the mid-1990s for a couple more.
Like many of the obscure distilleries the vast majority of its production has gone into blended whiskies, most notably Haig and Dimple, although I'm sure some finds its way into some of the Johnnie Walker range. There have only been a select few bottlings of Mannochmore single malt, particularly in the case of official bottlings, since the first release in 1992. The most notable of those have been part of Diageo's Flora & Fauna range, and more recently as a sporadically-appearing part of their annual Special Release bottlings. The distillery is also responsible for one particularly infamous and apparently truly horrible whisky, which now of course is a collector's item and is ridiculously expensive for what it is: Loch Dhu, 'The Black Whisky'. Loaded to the hilt with artificial colouring, although apparently "double charring" of the casks also attributed, this whisky was almost black in colour, as you might guess from the name. It's now achieved near-cult status, particularly amongst European collectors with an eye for the oddball & unusual.
This particular bottling though is nowhere near as well known, or as widely disliked. An official bottling from Diageo's 2009 batch of special releases, it's an 18-year old cask strength bottling that was matured in a mix of both re-charred refill ex-bourbon American oak & ex-sherry European oak casks, and first-fill ex-sherry American oak casks. 3210 bottles were released at a cask strength of 54.9%, with an original retail price of 105 pounds, all those eight years ago. These days of course it's quite a bit more expensive, and is mostly only found in online auctions. Unfortunately it's most likely chill filtered, but they may have eased up a bit since it's part of Diageo's special releases (looking at Lagavulin 12 as a fine example!), but I don't believe there's any added colouring here. Anyway, time to pop my Mannochmore cherry!
Mannochmore 18-year old, 54.9%. Speyside, Scotland.
Distilled 1990, bottled 2009. Diageo Special Release. Matured in refill American oak ex-bourbon & refill European ex-sherry casks, and first-fill American oak ex-sherry casks. Suspect at least lightly chill filtered, but I don't believe it's been artificially coloured.
Colour: Dark amber.
Nose: Interesting! Quite dry to start with, and very mineral-y in character. Some lovely meaty, rich, dry Oloroso sherry, a little savoury honey & vanilla, and that almost Island whisky-like minerality that I'd more expect from a Tobermory or Bunnahabhain. Like a cold stone or volcanic rock. A little yeasty too, and quite well balanced overall.
Texture: Medium weight, warm & silky. Does have a little heat to it, but it's only light.
Taste: Nice meaty, dry sherry again, warm baking spices, and more of that stone-like minerality. Slightly salty too, hint of ground coffee and a little raw spirit-y tingle.
Finish: Medium length. Semi-dark chocolate, stewed stone fruits, slight hint of something nutty. More baking spices too, and a little bitter marmalade.
Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Notes: A very nice sherried dram from what seems to be quite an unusual distillery! That slightly salty mineral character in particular is very intriguing, like I said above it's something I'd more expect to find in an Island-whisky like a Tobermory for example. So it makes for a great point of difference in this Speysider! Considering the original retail price in 2009, and the fact that it's an 18-year old, cask strength sherried whisky with a relatively small release (even more so nearly 10 years later), this one can still be had for almost-reasonable money on the auction circuit, which I'd say is partly down to it being such an obscure distillery. So it's well worth the hunt if you're into this sort of thing.
Certainly a very enjoyable dram, although when drinking sherried Speysiders it's hard to resist comparing them to the sherry-bomb masters like Glendronach, Aberlour etc., but this is a different kettle of fish really. It has enough going on underneath & alongside the sherry, plus that unexpected but not unpleasant minerality, and I can't say I've tried anything quite like it. Which is all part of the fun of exploring new whiskies!