Review – Fettercairn 16

It seems I’ve done a few Fettercairn articles over the years. I could repeat myself or perhaps its best that you browse my archive to catch up on my previous rambles.

In summary the brand has had a recent refresh and has moved away from the awful Fasque and Fior expressions of yesteryear. A new look and the addition of aged expressions have put it back on track and in a new direction. Fettercairn always seemed to be the unloved child of the Whyte and MacKay stable so the decision to invest what I would assume to be a large amount in such a project shows remarkable confidence from the parent company.

I’ve tried a few Indie Fettercairn which were, on the whole, really good – which lead me to wonder why the OB’s weren’t up to much. A lack of investment and the requirement for it as a blending ingredient rather than as a dram in its own right were probably the answers to that question.

The new(wish) core range featured 12, 28, 40 and 50 year old expressions which has led many to wonder about the obvious gap and the unusual age statements (the 28 specifically). It has been put down by some to stock shortages (which may or may not be true) but W&M have always hinted, both on and off the record, that there was a missing expression that would be unveiled in ‘due time’.

As it turns out due time is now….

Step forward the new Fettercairn 16 year old.

Distilled with chocolate malted barley, which is heavily kilned at over 200 degrees to give it almost a ‘dark roast’, this expression is then matured in first fill American oak ex-bourbon casks and then finished in sherry and port casks.

This is the first batch of the 16 and as far as I am aware there will be more yearly batches going forward, each one will be different however. Mulling over the initial information did make me wonder why we couldn’t try a chocolate malted barley Fettercairn to allow a comparison between their standard barley output and this one, but after a moments consideration, if you are going full on experimental then why not get a little contrived? Especially if you are mixing it up and doing something different in the future.

Pressure is on for the first one however to set a precedent and keep the interest flowing for future releases.

Bottled at 46.4% abv it is a little punchier than the other expressions but still is ‘Mit Farbstoff’ (meaning it has had caramel colour added – the reason it is in German is because Germany legislates that the addition of colouring must be detailed on the label)

This expression is initially only available from The Whisky Shop before being rolled out to other outlets and will retail for £69 – which puts in in the same price bracket as its W&M stablemate, Dalmore 15 and the new Balblair 15 (both of which are a little pricey), but in fairness it is more of a limited batch product so I’ll allow a little leeway on price – however there is no doubt that the new Fettercairn pricing structure nudges it a little more toward the ‘luxury’ end of the scale.

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Fettercairn 16, (OB) 46.4%abv, press sample, (available here)

The nose is very rich, full of old wood and over ripened fruits. Scorched oranges, espresso and chocolate mix with ginger, treacle and hints of neatsfoot oil. There is a slight dampness here, not an earthy dampness but perhaps more akin to wet pencils.

The palate gives us a slight change in direction, it is tannic and spiced but the coffee and chocolate notes are much more mellow – we have gone from espresso and dark chocolate to Cortado and milk chocolate. There are some strong fruity notes here, flashes of the signature Fettercairn tropical fruits but we are getting slightly more from the casks than the spirit here – raisins, cherries and a dollop of apples pureed with cinnamon. The mouthfeel is nice and thick.

The finish comprises of lingering spices with a few fruity undertones, a twist of Szechuan pepper and a little gingerbread, leaving a slight cake-y feeling.

The cask make up may be a little contrived but in terms of flavour it gives a delicate and balanced delivery with spirit, barley and cask elements all coming through.

Certainly worthy of consideration for those who are looking for something a little different.

Disclaimer: W&M did send a generous sample, in fact it was a full bottle. Thoughts, notes and opinions remain my own.

You can find more of my tasting notes in the Amateur Drammers Archives.

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