Lets be honest. The Fettercairn distillery does not inspire a cult following amongst whisky fanatics. Its most definitely not a Bruichladdich or a Brora. Its not even on most whisky drinkers radars.
It’s a distillery I visited last year alongside The Whisky Pilgrim and afterwards I wrote an article (probably better described as an essay) about my visit and my thoughts on the Fettercairn branding and market strategy, which you can read here.
I go through some of the history and statistics of Fettercairn in that article so I won’t repeat myself here.
I’ve been rummaging around my sample cupboard only to find 3 Fettercairns that were lurking near the back so lets have a look at three different expressions ranging from ‘Meh’ to ‘Mmmh’…
Fettercairn ‘Fior’, OB, NAS, 42%abv, from my collection (available here)
On the nose there is some heavy lemon and citrus, which is surprising. There is quite a rich and dark element here which mixes amougst fruitier notes and some almond hints.
The palate on the whole is a little bitter. I dont mean this in a bad way, its just the way the elements present themselves. Chocolate, perhaps some coffee and muscovado sugar infused toffee combine here along with some cereal and malty notes. The nutty elements are also lingering here alongside a whiff of smoke.
The finish is quite short and smoother than the palate would suggest. There are some savoury and tannic elements here that I wasnt expecting.
Theres nothing really dislikable here, but nothing overly likeable either. Drinkable but hardly inspiring. This is a NAS expression however I am lead to beleive that their other NAS expression, Fasque, is made up of around 50% 13 and 14 year old spirit and around 50% 6 year old spirit. I wonder if the ratio for this is broadly similar, which would explain a lot about the way the dram develops through the tasting process.
Fettercairn, (IB from Independent Spirit of Bath), Dist 2009, 56.2% abv, sample swap (available here)
The nose (along with the whole feeling and style of the dram) is very different to the Fior. This one still maintains a fruity element on the nose with some syrupy peaches, apricots, white chocolate and a light bananna influence.
The palate feels rather fresh with custard cream biscuits mixing nicely with some citrusy notes. Definately benefits from the adition of water here, its a bit too much for me at a touch over 56%, water tames and opens it up very nicely indeed. There isnt a lot of complexity here but its a pleasant spirit. Much more so than the distilleries other offerings.
I’m not going to call it a finish. Its more of a controlled fade. Pleasant to the end, without much departure from the palates elements other than a slight smokey addition near to the end.
I reckon that this is much closer to the distilleries actual character that both the Fasque and the Fior expressions. The label states that this is natural colour and non chill filtered. Comparing the much darker coulour of the Fior to this may lead you to conclude that it may have had some colour enhancement…
Fettercairn Distillery Exclusive, OB, Dist 2003, 276 bottles, 54%abv, (available at the Distillery)
During my tour my curiousity led me to try this distillery exclusive single cask. This one is both natural colour and NCF which is refreshing, was matured in a second fill sherry butt and distilled in 2003.
The nose has elements of spice and dark chocolate alongside some dark fruits and some ligering vanilla.
The palate is nutty and fresh. Demerara sugar mixes with Earl Grey tea (dilute, but most definately there) and there is a fascinating buttery feeling couple with some burnt sugar tones. The slightly bitter elements found in the Fior and noticably absent here.
The finish is malty and introduces some strong cereal notes. Toasted oak and nutmeg linger until the end.
This one will spilt opinion. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest this feels very Dalmore-esque (Dalmore is owned by Whyte and MacKay who own Fettercairn)
If you like Dalmore ( I’m a fan but I know its not always well regarded by whisky purists) then I am going to reccomend you try this.
The current Dalmore range is usually bottled at quite a low abv and I had always wondered what a cask strength Dalmore would be like. Perhaps this is about as close as we will get.