Whisky Review: Mortlach 13 Year The Moonlit Beast

, | February 22, 2022

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

The 2021 Diageo Special Releases are here. The latest collection strays from the repetitive Rare by Nature and delves deep into thematic fables, or Legends Untold. Eight legendary Scottish distilleries are featured in the Special Releases, and the collection includes some of the most expensive whisky since the 2017 collection. 

The mythical creatures relate to the distilleries based on “the hidden gems that can be found in each corner of the Scottish terrain amongst the lochs and rugged highlands.” The Mortlach distillery is once again included in the 2021 Special Releases. The 13-year-old whisky is aptly named The Moonlit Beast. Mortlach itself is known as the “Beast of Dufftown.”

So how did this legend arise? Well, as the fable goes, “when darkness falls, and the sapphire glow of the full moon lights up the sky, a lone beast stirs amidst the shadows. As the singing stills of Mortlach begin to play their haunting melody, a howl breaks and rings in unison. The beast leaves no trace but his formidable song, vibrating throughout the distillery, gives Mortlach its extraordinary, magnetic nature.”

The Moonlit Beast features a beautiful illustration of a howling wolf in front of the moon. Ken Taylor has captured haunting details of this legend with his masterful artwork. Diageo goes a step further with a QR code that unlocks an immersive tasting experience and gives life to Taylor’s illustration.

Mortlach 13 Year The Moonlit Beast review

Mortlach 13 Year The Moonlit Beast (image via Malts.com)

Tasting Notes: Mortlach 13 Year The Moonlit Beast

Vital Stats: 55.9% ABV. Speyside single malt matured in virgin and refill American oak barrels. 750ml $125.

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Appearance: Light gold

Nose: Salty air mixed with a little creme de cacao reminds me of sea salt chocolate chunk cookies. Menthol or spearmint comes through in the middle with baby powder and jasmine. Overall, the whisky reminds me of Orange flower water because it is slightly fruity and delicate. Just a touch of campfire lingers in the background. When opened with a few drops of water, spun sugar and bubblegum appear. 

Palate: Where the nose is light in smoke, smoke is bolder on the palate. The mouthfeel is sooty, and it is a bit hot even with water. The dram is sweet like the burnt sugar crust on crème brûlée. Grapefruit peel and honey meet in the middle. The finish is peppery with oak lasting on the breath. 

The Takeaway


Mortlach has released some of the finest whisky over the centuries. The Moonlit Beast is one of those fine whiskies. The nose and palate complement each other despite not quite matching up. This surprise is welcoming and shows off the whisky’s depth and complexity.

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Courtney Kristjana

Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...