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Fettercairn Looking to the Future
Fettercairn distillery has resided upon the Fasque Estate since 1824. It was purchased by blender Whyte & MacKay in 1973 and has remained under their ownership ever since. Recent years have seen something of a revival in the distillery’s fortunes with a new range of single malts launched in 2018.
Fettercairn, it seems, are looking to the future with grand plans for the brand going forward. Back in July it was announced that Whyte & MacKay intended to create a forest on land adjoining the distillery. 13,000 Quercus Petraea and Quercus Robur oak saplings were planted with the intention of one day being able to produce a single estate, Scottish oak matured single malt whisky. The project is part of Whyte & MacKay’s plans for greater sustainability in their production methods and follows on from the pioneering work of whisky maker, Gregg Glass.
Glass leads Whyte & MacKay’s Whisky Works experimental blending and bottling project. The label launched with a blended malt called King of Trees which included some whisky that had been matured in a unique Scottish oak cask. Gregg worked with wind-felled, responsibly sourced wood to create the cask and now aims to take a similar approach at Fettercairn.
Locally sourced oak has been used to make casks that are already resting in Fettercairn’s warehouses, quietly maturing new make spirit. With a whole forest of the stuff being planted beside the distillery the team hope to make Scottish oak a key element in the Fettercairn story going forward.
Continuing their commitment to local ingredients, Fettercairn have also been in talks with 100 farmers that operate within 50 miles of the distillery. With sufficient quantities of local barley secured, the prospect of a single estate Fettercairn malt takes another step closer to reality.
In the meantime, Fettercairn continues to flex its creative muscles. The distillery launched a new 16-year-old in 2019. The whisky was distilled from chocolate malt and matured in ex-bourbon casks before a two year finishing period in ex-sherry and ex-port casks.
This year, just in time for Christmas, the team have unveiled a new batch, only this time there’s no roasted malt and the whisky has been matured in a combination of refill sherry casks including both Oloroso and Palo Cortado solera casks.
*Full disclosure: I was sent the whisky featured in this article free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion in the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Quite malty at first. Gristy. Cereals and muesli. Then Honey. Dry roasted peanuts. Some subtle dried fruits. Marmalade with orange zest. Some zingy citrus notes. Lime. A splash of water brought some tropical fruits… Pineapple, mango. Lemon and apple, too.
Taste: Gentle woody spice on arrival. Followed by a slightly sour note. Raisins and red grapes. Mango chutney. Caramel and Madeira cake. Ginger biscuits. Vanilla cream. Cinnamon. Little touch of coffee and pepper with water added.
Thoughts: In comparison to the previous 16, this seems lighter. I wouldn’t say it’s a delicate malt but it definitely doesn’t feel as robust as its predecessor. It’s packed full of subtle complexities though.
The solera sherry casks aren’t overly active. Instead, their subtle influence mingles with the spirit instead of dominating it and there’s still plenty of the honeyed, tropical fruits character that I’ve come to associate with Fettercairn.
Value for money: It’s not cheap at £70 but Fettercairn has been on the steep side since the relaunch. Only the individual can decide if they like it enough to pay the price. Personally, I’m not totally convinced of that yet. I certainly liked it but I’m not sure I liked it enough to pay £70. I’d encourage you to try it if given the change though because it’s certainly interesting and it’s got a decent age statement and comes bottled at a good drinking strength so there’s a lot going for it.
If nothing else, it’s another fine example of the creativity that’s now on display at Fettercairn. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this brand has never been more interesting than it is now and with all the ongoing projects at the distillery, that situation looks likely to continue well into the future.
For more Fettercairn visit here.