Reviews of affordable whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
Fib Whisky is an independent bottler, established in 2021 by the Fife Whisky Company. The name comes from the myths and legends of the earliest people to call Scotland home. In Pictish mythology, there was a King named Cuithne. The king had seven sons, Cait, Ce, Cirig, Fitla, Fib, Fidach and Fortrenn. Rather than choose one heir to rule his kingdom, Cruithne divided Pictland into seven separate kingdoms. Fib, the fifth son, was given the land between the Forth and the Tay and thus, the Kingdom of Fife was born.
The Fife Whisky Company was founded by Aedan Andrejus Burt, an inspirational figure known to many in the Scotch whisky world. Aedan suffered a spinal injury at the age of two that would impact the rest of his life but from the outside looking in, it seemed like he managed to live his life to the fullest. Born and raised in Fife, he studied at St Andrews University where he was introduced to whisky. He developed a passion for the spirit and became involved with the St Andrews Quaich Society. He also studied Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt and was a member of the Lindores sensory panel. In 2017, Aedan took part in Theatre of Drams, a whisky symposium created by the Islay Whisky Academy. As a result, he became a liked and valued member of our Kinship.
Aedan sadly passed away after a short illness early this year. I can’t claim to have known him on a personal level but we shared a few conversations online and promised that we’d have a dram in person sometime. He told me next time I was in Fife I should pay him a visit and insisted that the drams would be on him. That was the kind of man he was. Aedan was an inspiration and while I may not have known him well, his presence in this small whisky world will be sorely missed.
Fib survives through Director, Iain Mundy. A musician by trade, Iain was introduced to whisky by his lifelong friend, Aedan. Later, he was convinced to join him on the adventure of a lifetime as they created a new independent bottler together. Perhaps it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. I wish Iain and Fib all the very best for the future. I can think of no better monument to Aedan than the long-term success of his creation.
Fib Whisky Port Dundas 21-year-old Single Grain
Port Dundas was a grain distillery that stood in the north of the city of Glasgow. The facility was deemed surplus to requirements by Diageo and closed in 2010. Its relatively recent demise means there are a few casks still scattered around, several of which have been bottled by indies like Fib.
Smell: Caramel sauce. Creme brulee. Honey. Vanilla. Biscuit. A bit of dry grass and straw. Hay bales. There’s also some citrus with lemon and orange and a wee touch of oak, though the wood influence is relatively subtle for the amount of time spent in the cask.
Taste: Lots of honey and biscuit as it arrives on the tip of the tongue. Soon that’s backed up by oak and peppery spice. Towards the back, there’s a little lemony tang, along with the touch of grassiness that was on the nose. There’s even an interesting liquorice-like note that comes through just before the finish. Almost aniseed. Perhaps a little more interesting than the average single grain.
Thoughts: There’s nowhere near the same amount of variety in single grain whisky as can be found in single malt. Sure, grain whisky can be an interesting and enjoyable dram to sip on, but it sometimes feels like tasting one, means you’ve tasted them all. Like any spirit, however, the more you get to know it, the more you’ll pick up small yet unique quirks in different expressions. This Port Dundas, for example, showcases some nice interplay between the grassy, biscuity notes and the fresher, fruitier elements. A later release using stock from this very cask was finished in wine and I can see why that would make sense as the citrus notes give a definite hint of white wine – even in this original, unfinished format. It may not be radically different from other grains but there’s enough there to entice fans of the style – and it’s always nice to see another bottling from Glasgow’s lost grain distillery.
Price: £110. It’s not exactly cheap but you have to factor in the impressive 21-year-old age statement. If this were a malt, it could easily be three times the price. It therefore makes for a relatively affordable way to add some age to your home selection and anyone who decides to purchase will be rewarded with a good example. Not sure it’s something I’m personally looking for at the minute but I enjoyed it all the same.
Fib Whisky Allt-a-Bhainne 13-year-old Single Malt
Allt-a-Bhainne is a Speyside distillery founded in the 1970s. The name comes from the Gaelic Allt a’ Bhainne, the burn of the milk. The burn (stream or small river in Scotland) was so named because the flowing water frothed like milk. The distillery is owned by Pernod Ricard, through their Chivas Brothers stable, and produces whisky for use in blended Scotch. Official releases of the single malt are rare.
Smell: The Bourbon Barrel comes to the fore with lots of vanilla, butterscotch and caramel. There’s also a generous helping of cinnamon and honeyed breakfast cereals. Beyond the cask, there’s a light spirit with some fresh green fruits and light spice.
Taste: Full-on flavour arrival with honey and caramel followed by some peppery heat. There’s a malty / gristy element that speaks of the raw ingredients and notes of apple and pear, with some melon and pineapple, giving it a distinctly summery feel.
Thoughts: An enjoyable dram that manages to balance spirit and oak without either dominating. Bourbon barrel and light, fruity spirit have come together to make something greater. Perhaps there’s nothing particularly unique or unusual to really excite the palate but it’s nevertheless a well-rounded and enjoyable single malt. It may present a familiar set of tasting notes but it still does it well and that in itself makes for a pleasant dramming experience.
Price: £102.50. The price seems a little steep although not completely out of the realm of the ordinary. 13 years is a decent age statement to find on a single cask these days. Perhaps we can forgive higher costs when a new, small-scale bottler like Fib Whisky is trying to establish itself? Set-up costs can’t be insignificant and heaven knows access to good casks doesn’t come cheap. That said, enjoyable though it was, not sure it caught my attention enough to splurge on it.
Fib Whisky Staoisha 8-year-old Single Malt
Staoisha is a trade name given to peated whisky from Bunnahabhain Distillery in Islay. The Bunnahabhain single malt built its reputation on being an unpeated Islay that works particularly well in sherry casks but it can be every bit as interesting when the spirit is peated and aged in bourbon barrels.
Smell: Wonderfully malty and creamy. Butterscotch and fudge. Also freshly squeezed lemons. A little tang, reminiscent of fizzy sweets. There is, however, a generous helping of meaty smoke as well but it doesn’t overpower the nose. It’s slightly distant at first and rises in prominence once noticed. Develops an ashy note over time.
Taste: That meatiness is in evidence again. There’s a real robustness to the dram. Barbecued meats and coal fire smoke. Charcoal. A salty, briney character speaks of the sea whilst a subtle oakiness speaks of the 8 years spent resting in a bourbon barrel.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. Now, I’m always a sucker for Islay drams anyway but I found this especially satisfying. It has a fullness of flavour that’s backed brilliantly by weight and body on the palate. It’s oily and coats the mouth, which helps the flavours carry on long after it’s gone down the hatch. The smoke is ever-present but not as in-your-face as an Ardbeg or Laphroaig, instead, it loiters on the periphery and you get some fruit, malt and oak to savour in the middle. Despite its power, there’s a mellowness to the dram. There’s only a little suggestion of spice and very little evidence of the 57.6% abv. Excellent bourbon matured Bunnahabhain.
Price: £128. The price is a wee bit painful but sadly this is becoming all too common with single cask Islay malts. It’s not really the fault of the bottler, just a result of excessive demand driving up prices. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare £130 lying around you could do a lot worse than spend it on this Staoisha because it really is exceptional.
For more on Fib Whisky visit: https://www.fibwhisky.scot/