From being the runt of the Whyte & Mackay family, Fettercairn has all of a sudden catapulted into the spotlight. It’s not like they’re wowing people left and right, but feedback is generally positive, which is a massive change from a few years ago, when it was mostly regarded as just another blend filler. The latest release is the Fettercairn 16 Years 1st Release— a single malt with a few interesting details.
Fettercairn’s reinvention as a single malt was announced in mid-2018. Curiously, the core range included a standard 12-year-old, but then immediately jumped to an expensive 28-year-old (as well as an even more expensive 40-year-old and 50-year-old). I thought the Fettercairn 12 Years was decent, but I failed to see how it would entice consumers to shell out major bucks for one of the older expressions.
This new(-ish) Fettercairn 16 Years 1st Release fills that gap. At a retail price around 80/90 euro it isn’t an entry-level whisky, but at the very least you do get something interesting for your money. This was made from chocolate malted barley, which is kilned at much higher temperatures and is more commonly used by brewers. It also matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks before being finished in a combination of ex-Sherry and ex-Port casks.
Fettercairn 16 Years 1st Release (46.4%, OB, 2020)
Nose: Slightly chalky with soft jammy fruits. Plums and blueberries with in the background gentle baking spices. Notes of (slightly burned) caramel syrup too, but also charred orange peel and toffee. Finally some soy and a lovely dunnage quality of damp oak, mould and sherry. Taste: Sweet, oily and spicy. Touches of chocolate, tobacco and nutmeg, as well as cinnamon and cracked black pepper corns. Whiffs of strong coffee and maple syrup too. Finish: Lingering spices and dark chocolate. Medium in length.
A nice showing by Fettercairn, this 16-year-old 1st Release displays an intriguing balance between all three cask types.
While it already sold out in many places, you can find some shops that have it on the shelves still. You could also wait for a second batch, but that might differ wildly in terms of cask make-up and the type of barley.