Alongside other legal distilleries founded in the wake of the Excise Act, Mortlach is officially founded on the site of an older illicit distillery – becoming the first legal distillery in Dufftown, now one of the epicentres of Speyside whisky distilling.
In 1853 John Gordon took sole ownership of the distillery, he was joined by George Cowie. Prior to this George was an engineer, working through the Golden Age of Victorian Engineering. With his pioneering mind, audacious spirit and accurate determination George was a leader within the new distillery workforce.
Like his father, the art of building was in Alexander’s blood and he set about continuing the Cowie dynasty. Working alongside the famous distillery engineer Charles Doig – inventor of the Doig Ventilator (aka the Pagoda Rooftop) – the distillery was doubled in size and a railway siding – known as the “Strathspey Line” was added.
Calling on his scientific education and analytical mind and inspired by the great works of achievement around him, Alexander created the unique, intricate 2.81 distillation process still in place at the distillery today. Solely used at Mortlach distillery, this process – combined with traditional Worm Tub condensers – creates the thick, rich, bold spirit character Mortlach is famed for.
In 1964, in order to satisfy blender demand for Mortlach, sections of the distillery’s apparatus are renewed and buildings are altered and added to. The rest of Alexander Cowie’s distillery and pattern of operation is left untouched, however – including the outside wooden worm tubs used to cool and condense the spirit, which is now found at only a handful of distilleries.