Four New Fettercairns

Fettercairn Range Header

The systematic re-vamp of Whyte & Mackay’s single malt portfolio ticked another distillery off the list last month, following hot on the heels of the recent re-launches of Tamnavulin and Jura. One could argue that Dalmore grabs all the attention, marketing budget and general fanfare when Whyte & Mackay talk about single malt whisky, which means there’s really only one malt distillery left; Fettercairn.

This distillery hasn’t spent much time in the spotlight over the years, with its production being almost exclusively used for blending. Fettercairn Fior and Fasque were brought onto the market a few years ago but the brand has been pretty stagnant ever since. Not anymore. With four new expressions being launched (the youngest is already available from a good whisky retail website on a computer near you), Fettercairn is back with quite a bang. Opening with a 12yo, this expression will soon be joined a 28yo, a 40yo and a 50yo. Yes, a 50yo. They’re not playing games.

In terms of the packaging, you’ll notice there are ‘runs’ down the top half of each of the bottles. This glass embossing takes inspiration from the rather unusual spirit stills at Fettercairn which have ‘cooling rings’ fitted to the neck of their stills which essentially act like an extra condenser. The cold water runs down the side of the still which increases condensation inside the still and allows only the lightest vapours to be collected.

I was lucky enough to attend a dinner and preview tasting of all four expressions at Timberyard in Edinburgh late last month and here are my thoughts.

Fettercairn 12yo
Ex-bourbon barrels
40% ABV
£46.95 here

Nose: Very soft tropical fruits, with mango, stewed pineapple, and pear juice. Then runny honey, custard creams and a little hint of baking spices on oak.

Palate: A little more depth than the nose, with tropical breakfast juice and some fruit salad sweets to begin, before a creamy vanilla note, some slightly earthy oak and a touch of cinnamon.

Finish: Very gentle wood spice, with a clean apple and pear skin note and a little oak.

Fettercairn 28yo
Ex-bourbon barrels
42% ABV
RRP £500

Nose: Really quite strange, with a host of fermented fruits; pineapple, kiwi, mango, banana and dried apricots. Must be some of that cooling ring malarkey. Then there’s a bit of Seville orange and uncooked vanilla sponge cake batter too.

Palate: The palate really follows on with those funky fermented fruits. There’s also something a little lactoney about it – milk chews and white mice.

Finish: The fruits linger, with a wee bit of cinnamon and nutmeg for balance.

Fettercairn 40yo
35 years in an ex-bourbon barrel, 5 years in an Apostoles sherry cask
48.9% ABV
RRP £3,000

Nose: A different beast entirely – old leather, Jamaica cake, molasses, espresso, a bit of dark cherry, blackcurrant cordial and blackberries. That sherry cask has really taken hold.

Palate: All sorts of ginger cake, dark treacle, rum soaked raisins, black olive paste, a touch of balsamic vinegar and some soy sauce. Then some dark chocolate, tea leaf and unlit cigar.

Finish: The dark, tannic notes give way to a savoury, meaty note.

Fettercairn 50yo
45 years in an ex-bourbon barrel, 5 years in a Tawny port cask
47.9% ABV
RRP £10,000

Nose: Wow. A pure concentration of dark cherries, Black Forest gateau, liquorice, molasses, port jus, sticky dates and stewed plums. On the lighter side, those pineapples are back, along with some cooked apple and poached pear. There’s a little spiced mango chutney, some black coffee, an old Chesterfield wingback, polished mahogany and glazed walnuts.

Palate: Sticky and syrupy to begin, with sultana cake, Madeira cake, malt loaf, burnt Christmas Cake edges, hazelnut praline and coffee liqueurs. Some charred twigs, cinnamon stick, and liquorice are there too. Then a sweet earthiness comes through, with a myriad baking spices, sandalwood, more mahogany, dry logs and bark.

Finish: The rich, juicy fruits surge back and are complemented by austere, but gentle, oak.

Overall: Four very interesting, and very different drams. The 12yo is very enjoyable; the rounded tropical fruitiness is rather rewarding although I do fear for it given the £47 price point. There’s a lot of good quality competition out there available for much less. The 28yo and the 40yo didn’t really hit the spot for me – I found the 28yo rather quiet and quite odd what with all those fermenting fruits. The 40yo has maybe spent a bit too long in that Apostoles cask for me – it becomes a bit too tannic, drying and leathery on the palate. The 50yo, however, is very well balanced between the fruit, the spice, and the oak. I’ve tasted quite a few other whiskies of a similar age which are wildly over-oaked and are really just an exercise in penis-waving. You know, part of the ‘look at what we’ve got in our warehouse’ mentality. This, on the other hand, is very, very good liquid. But £10,000? Oft.



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