It has been quite some time since I last wrote abut Fettercairn. I visited the distillery in October 2016 and afterwards published an article entitled Fettercairn: When is a brand not a brand?
Perhaps you may wish to click the link and go back and read it but to save you the bother my conclusion at the end was thus:
“Where are Whyte & MacKay going with this? Why establish a brand, a brand home, overhaul and restyle the product if you aren’t really going to take it anywhere or push it?
It seems like a half finished project. The rebranding from the slightly dated Old Fettercairn brand to the slick and polished new product complete with Unicorn emblem on the bottle is night and day.
Makes you wonder what the future holds for what can only be described as a brand which appears to be simply treading water.”
Fast forward to July 2018 and here I am in Edinburgh casting my eye over the rebranded and soon to be relaunched Fettercairn range. Looks like this ‘unfinished’ brand is finally getting some time in the spotlight…
I will freely admit to not being a big fan of Fettercairn. I’ve tried their previous core releases (Fasque and Fior) and wasn’t overly impressed.
That’s not to say I’ve never had a good Fettercairn however. I was very surprised by the distillery exclusive Single Cask release and a couple of independently released expressions which I reviewed in an article from June last year:
Anyway, back to the new range.
Good brands are built on good foundations, which has been something missing from the Fettercairn releases previously.
The entry level expression is 12 years old (good to see they’ve gone with an age statement) and is much more akin to some of the independent fruity and fresh styles of Fettercairn that I’ve encountered in the past.
I get the feeling that this is more representative of the ‘house style’ of Fettercairn. Soft, fruity and with some nice soft spices this really is a solid benchmark. Matured in American oak ex-bourbon, bottled at 40% abv with an RRP of £48.
The eagle eyed of you will notice the ‘drops’ of water running down the outside of the bottle. This is a nod to the unique water cooled stills at Fettercairn. A nice touch.
The range then takes a bit of a jump in both age and in price as we move to a 28 year old expression that will retail for £500.
Most definitely my favourite of all the expressions tasted on the night. 28 is a bit of an ‘odd’ number but whether this decision is due to branding, a marketing decision or stock levels it is most definitely ready for release at this age.
It is much deeper in terms of flavour and more spiced in nature than the 12 with some nice burnt sugar and vanilla notes reminiscent of creme brûlée. There is a slight sharpness on the palate akin to blood orange and nice touches of grilled grapefruit sprinkled with brown sugar which gives a nice drying feeling throughout the palate and finish.
Again this expression is matured in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels with an abv of 42%abv. Personally I think it would benefit from a slight bump in abv, but I’m probably just being a little picky.
£500 is a premium price however and this will face stiff competition at this price point from other, more established, premium brands.
There is a bit of a gap here in the range between the 12 and 28 and I’m led to believe that it will be filled at some point.
Watch this space as they say..
Next in the line up is the Fetercairn 40 year old. It is limited to just over 800 bottles worldwide and available for around £3000. It has spent 35 years in bourbon and then finished for 5 years in Apostoles Sherry casks.
There is a wonderful juxtaposition throughout this dram of a dry yet remarkably fresh whisky but with intermingling rich fruits and a pleasant nutty feeling.
There is no additional colouring in either the 40 or the 50 and they are both non chill filtered and come in at their natural cask strength (48.9% abv and 47.9% abv respectively)
Finally we approach the 50 year old.
Half century whiskies are rare and this is one of a handful that I have tried. This whisky is, again, limited to just over 800 bottles and can be yours for a mere £10,000.
This expression has spent 45 years in bourbon casks before being finished in a Tawny Port Pipe. I’m a big fan of the influence that Port has on a whisky so was rather intrigued by this expression.
The colour is astonishing (I checked and yes it is natural colour) Impressively dark with a fantastic reddish hue when held up to the light.
Very deep and dark on the nose. Sweet blackcurrant jam, dark cherries and buttery gingerbread pop out of the glass. One of those drams you could nose for hours.
I’ll be publishing more detailed tasting notes in due course but suffice to say that it is quite some dram.
The inclusion of the 40 year old and 50 year old expressions in the line up are, I would say, not realistically included from a sales point of view but to add a little prestige and gravitas to the range. No doubt the overwhelming majority of sales revenue will come from the younger expressions.
These are most definitely statements of intent. I’ve previously compared high end releases such as these to concept cars, showcasing what a car manufacturer can do, affordable by the few and driven by fewer.
Massively enjoyable to have a test drive however…
There has been a real effort made on the design of these bottles. I know its all about the contents but these expressions are presented very well indeed. Even the cork has some impressive detailing (as the somewhat dark and out of focus photograph below attempts to show)
An amazing vertical tasting and a bit of a paradigm shift in terms of the brand. It will be interesting to see where Fetercairn goes from here.
Disclaimer: This was an official launch event organised by White & MacKay. Travel expenses were covered however I retained full control over the content of this article.
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