Reviews of affordable whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
Pictish Beastie is a new release from Fib Whisky, an independent bottler of Scotch whisky. Established in 2022 by the late Aedan Andrejus Burt and Iain Mundy, Fib’s first round of releases saw a series of single casks bottled as two distinct expressions. Half of each cask was bottled as it was, while the other half was given a further period of maturation in casks seasoned by various other wines and spirits. For this latest release, however, Fib opted to create a new blended Scotch named after the Pictish Beastie, a wee creature that serves as the company’s logo.
Fib has embraced Pictish mythology and imagery as part of its identity from the offset. Even the word Fib comes from the Pictish name for the Kingdom of Fife. The connection was inspired by Aedan Burt’s father, Dr John Robert Fyffe Burt, a GP with a keen interest in Scottish history and a particular fascination with the picts. In his office, Dr Burt kept some replica Pictish stones, one of which featured the image of the mysterious Beastie.
It’s certainly a captivating image, made all the more so because no-one actually knows what it’s supposed to be. It’s clearly an animal of some description but it isn’t easily identifiable as any known species. Some have suggested it’s an early, stylised depiction of a horse or dolphin, or perhaps even a beast of legend like the kelpie or dragon. Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure but the Beastie accounts for around 40% of all Pictish animal depictions so whatever it was, it clearly held great cultural significance.
As well as serving as Fib’s logo, “Pictish Beastie” is the name of the company’s first blend. Where the creature is shrouded in mystery, however, the whisky is certainly not. Fib has offered up a healthy dose of transparency where the makeup of the whisky is concerned. The recipe comprises just two casks, one malt and one grain. 54% of the liquid comes from Cameronbridge Distillery in Fife: a single grain finished in a sherry butt that previously held GlenAllachie single malt. The other 46% is a single malt from Deanston Distillery, finished in a 1st fill PX hogshead. It certainly sounds an intriguing combination.
I’m quite pleased to see Fib dabble in the world of blended Scotch here. It follows similar moves from the team behind Adelphi / Ardnamurchan with their “MacLean’s Nose” release and Watt Whisky with the “Two Cities and a Wee Toon” blend. This sort of thing excites me because it sometimes feels like the independent bottling world has stagnated somewhat in recent years. I don’t point the finger of blame at the bottlers themselves, it’s just that many factors have contributed to the throttling of the scene.
There’s a very limited number of casks available from an ever-declining pool of distilleries, yet new bottlers are coming along all the time. Indies have to find new ways to put their own stamp on the casks they buy, frustrated in the knowledge that every other bottler has similar stock. Up until recently, that creativity has often taken the form of cask finishes or sometimes, at a push, blended malts. But why not blends? I know problems remain between some consumers and the B word but surely the buyers of indie releases are among the more educated whisky drinkers? Surely they know that such notions are nonsense? Personally, I’d be quite up for IBs creating small batch blends from their cask stocks. It’s a way to create something new – something unique to each bottler – and it offers more variety to the drinkers. Wouldn’t that be more fun than shelf upon shelf, month after month, of indie Ardmore, Benrinnes and Teaninich? I hope Fib (and the rest) enjoy enough success with their releases that they’re encouraged to do a few more.
Pictish Beastie Blended Scotch Whisky
*Full disclosure: the whisky featured in this review was sent to me free of charge. As always, I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Oak. The richness of sherry with raisins, currants and prunes. A wee bit of leather. Walnuts and dark chocolate. Now moving onto vanilla pods and honey. There’s a wee smoky spice note like paprika or cayenne pepper. The creaminess of the grain is there too with crème brûlée and custard tarts.
Taste: Big arrival. Lots of intense flavour. You get the wheaty, creamy grain with muesli and trail mix and a bit of honey. Then there’s a bit of spirit heat (it is bottled at 58.8%!) that explodes mid-palate. There’s some sherry lingering in that fire, though. Black pepper. Dried fruits. Oak. Water toned down the heat and brought out some biscuity malt notes.
Thoughts: The combination of grain, malt and sherry oak holds together really well and best of all, you can find elements of each in both the smell and taste. In other words, there’s a nice balance to be found. The malt doesn’t overpower the grain and the sherry doesn’t overpower the spirit. For me, it needed a little splash of water to find its best self, but that’s OK and the water didn’t harm the texture.
There was a little disparity between nose and palate in that the sherry came came across a little more forcefully on the former. Maybe I’d have liked to find a little more of it on the palate but the dram never made any claims to being a big sherry bomb and it’s a perfectly enjoyable sip anyway. The high abv delivers plenty of flavour, the texture is pleasant and it all comes together to create something unlike the other drams currently on the market. A more than decent effort to kick off Fib’s blending efforts. More please.
Price: £54. A manageable price for a cask strength dram of around 10 years. The uniqueness of it makes it more appealing.
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For more on Fib Whisky visit: https://www.fibwhisky.scot/