New Fettercairns. Up close and personal.

Fettercairn

A good few weeks (or months?) after the release I finally got a chance to try the new all-pimped-out, redesigned, rebranded and re-everything-else offerings from Fettercairn distillery.

Before I start I should say I didn’t think much of their previous (and now discontinued I assume) standard bottling, the Old Fettercairn 1824 12yo. I thought it was bland, milky, too soft and simply off. On top of that the label looked like a primary school in a really bad area of Glasgow had been commissioned to design it. A total failure. I know a lot of you out there share this opinion.

Now, under new brand management Fettercairn is trying to reconnect. They have rolled out a range that seems honest enough from the outside. Pretentious high gloss wooden boxes (Asian businessman’s wet dream) and suspiciously dark colour of whisky regardless of the maturation regime are trademarks of Glasgow-based Whyte & Mackay ranges, but by no means would they ever put me off trying their products. Why? Because all too often when W&M releases a malt, inside old man’s elegance of packaging there is young man’s excitement of bold and robust flavour. So while I am not putting a poster of their product development team over my bed yet, I will gladly taste the juice and judge the range on its merit. In the end, that is all that matters to me.

Plus, when it comes to packaging, I’ll take stuffy over idiotic any time.

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I am tasting Fettercairn Fior, 24yo, 30yo and 40yo. I’m pouring the whiskies and covering the glasses. First – a rough sniff through the range, quickly before they start opening up. This first sweep indicates that numbers 2 and 3 will probably stand out. The Fior is a bit flatter and the 40yo seems quieter at first. I let them rest for a few minutes.

Fettercairn Fior
42% ABV
£36

Nose: It has this very Fettercairn-y milky note to it, no question about that. But this time it’s more like rich milk chocolate than goats milk, it has this sweet quality to it, very caramel-like. I think Cadbury Eclair sums it up pretty nicely. There is some smoke clearly present on top of that, which adds a dimension while not taking the leading role – I like it. There is not enough of it to blow me away however, it ends just when I’m getting interested.

Palate: Smoke, smoky smoke. Where did all this come from? I am quite surprised. For a mainlander it packs quite a punch, not unlike Ardmore I recently reviewed. But this is where the similarities end. While Ardmore felt heavy and oily, Fettercairn Fior shows lighter qualities behind the smoke, shines away with fresh ginger and a touch of lemon.

Finish: Bitter-sweet, develops spicy and marzipany.

Overall: My, my. What should I say about Fettercairn Fior? It’s not a dram that will change your life. Both nose and palate deliver interesting profiles but do not deliver enough of them. Having said that, it is absolutely crucial that the whisky shows enough distillery character to be unmistakably Fettercairn while making a vast improvement on the previous standard bottling. It will not be a hit with die hard maltheads. But people who occasionally think about the industry as a whole, who investigate the history of the drink and who know that a distillery is more than four walls, a roof and a couple of tons of copper… well, those people will want to try a new Fettercairn and Fior is a good place to start.

Fettercairn 24yo (1984)
44.4% ABV
£120

Nose: Different but similar. My first though is: a great vertical comparison! Milky theme continues here but the slight anemia of the Fior expression is nowhere to be seen. On the top I’m getting a big fruity aroma – sweet, fat, red apple. Rich runny caramel, green banana and a hint of peppermint follow. Now this is what I call a nose. Bravo.

Palate: Whilst being smoother than Fior, it packs much more rich fruitiness and is overall more juicy and less spicy.

Finish: Interesting. Banana, toast and coffee.

Overall: A big jump in price and a big jump in quality. It delivers just how I like it and makes for a great after dinner treat.

Fettercairn 30yo (1978)
43.3% ABV
£192

Nose: The plot thickens. Toffee, Christmas pudding, pralines and truffles. Buttery and nutty, Werther’s Original lingering in the background. All delivered with intensity and elegance, a truly exceptional nose.

Palate: Chocolate, orange and curry mix. Made me think of Lindt chocolate Santas.

Finish: Very biscuity and chocolaty, super silky.

Overall: Give me more! Bloody shame I can’t afford a bottle.

Fettercairn 40yo (1969)
40% ABV
£725

Nose: Milk chocolate underpins lovely floral perfume and tangerines. It transforms immensely in the glass, the longer it sits here the richer it becomes.

Palate: Tangerines again. Caramel and truffle cake. Haribos. It’s quiet but not distorted.

Finish: Savoury, not long.

Overall: Even a jammy bastard like me doesn’t get to try such rare whiskies every day. Fettercairn 40yo is a very adult, seriously elegant and gorgeously understated dram. So while I liked the 30yo more, it is the 40yo that made this cosy little tasting that tiny bit more special than most tastings I’ve done this year. It wraps the range up rather neatly and shouts ‘revenge’ for all the years of humiliation the distillery suffered.

*

The 30yo is my winner today for the depth, complexity and intensity of its flavour. It’s quite expensive as compared to, say, Glenfarclas 30yo and I can’t help to think it is the top-end packaging that is driving the price up here slightly. As always, I would rather see good whisky without an elaborate box and significantly cheaper. But what would all those Asian and Russian businessmen do without their glossy penis extension, eh?

The whole range can be considered a good one. While I am not a fan of Fior, I appreciate it for what it is. The rest of the line-up is great. The only thing I want to pick on really is the lack of a £50-£70 mid-shelf offering. Why is that?

What do you think, guys. Has anyone else tried any of the above?

Lucas

Comments

  1. Nope, but touring the distillery last winter we were served several samples

    2001 8yr Bourbon 1st fill
    1997 Sherry Hogshead
    2002 Methusalem, 700liter sherrycask, biggest cask size allowed by SWA
    1990 refill cask with 2yr finish. Bourbon 1st fill + 2yr finish Sherry
    1967 Sherry Hogshead
    2005 Peated
    12yr OB

    All samples were fantastic except the 12yo OB which is just as you described. I remember thinking why the heck bottle that when you got such fantastic whisky

    Seems like someone woke up in the company and they started bottling the real stuff

    Steffen

  2. they did a nice job repackaging those too. they look quite sexy.

  3. Haha:)The old 1824 label,design sooo ugly:))
    I never sold drams for guests,poor Fettercairn..
    But I really like the new package, I want to taste the 30yo.

  4. I share your thoughts on the packaging vis-a-vis the price, especially when I then have to pay the council to dispose of these fancy boxes etc.

    Glenfarclas are a great example for the on-trade of no-frills packaging at a very keen price (look at their recent 40yo), although I still have 4 of the lovely Family Cask boxes that I can’t bear to throw out – going free to a good home!

    I understand the need for some of the packaging, but how about a price differential. Do the producers assume that all their long-aged malts are destined for someones display cabinet or dusty cupboard? What about people out there who want to drink the stuff!

  5. got those lovelies just this week. will sample next week

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