Fettercairn’s 1966 50 year old is, I believe, the oldest ever bottling from this distillery. It also stands as both the oldest single malt The Dramble has reviewed to date, as well as the most expensive. There are not many distilleries out there that have the depth of stock available to even consider bottling an expression at this age.
Launched in mid-2018, the Fettercairn 50 was aged in American white oak ex-bourbon before being finished in a tawny port pipe. It’s bottled at 47.9% ABV and should you buy one, you’ll get a penny change back from your £10,000. 50 year old whisky is never cheap – and whilst you’ll find some examples clocking in at much less than £10K, you’ll also find plenty more coming in higher – sometimes considerably. This upper end of the whisky market really is quite silly, and nowadays much more about commodification and status than about drinking. Nevertheless, it’s quite the achievement for Fettercairn to have bottled this expression and likewise a true privilege to have sampled it.
Nose: Deep, dark and brooding with heavily reduced fruits (plums, damsons, cherries and blackberries), fermented black Cavendish tobacco and the shiniest of polished ebony. Impossibly dark chocolate, treacle and molasses provide a solid backbone which is supported by incredible, and surprisingly lightness – leafy greens and tree blossoms livened with cloves and cardamom. It’s exceptionally lovely, and frankly a hauntingly impressive composition of both dark and light. Reduction <intake of breath> adds frangipani, almond paste and a deep meatiness, part marmite, part reduced balsamic.
Taste: Totally unctuous and completely mouth coating with reduced stone and berry fruits and some tropical touches – pineapple, banana and star fruit. Leather, dusty libraries and old bound books are in full force here with ginger and cinnamon spicing providing a lovely light lift. Sitting alongside - high quality fruit cake, the darkest of chocolate and a good helping of cola cubes. The back-palate delivers a more bitter, wood-focussed event – with drying oak, deep nuttiness and menthol. There’s plenty of rancio here – port rancio – old, musty and quite dunnage. It’s all rather glorious. The addition of water offers a lighter delivery with less mouth cling and viscosity, alongside a less compact development. It’s still highly opulent and packed full of ancient wood, fruit cake and spice – but overall becomes less intense and a touch brighter.
Finish: Very long and quite intense to the very end. Sweet tropical tinges sit alongside wood spice and plenty of oak tannins (it’s 50 years old, go figure).
Fettercarin 1966 50 year old just makes me smile. It’s an outstanding whisky – but then at £10,000 you’d bloody well hope so. Whilst I suspect virtually all of the bottles produced (and I have no idea how many there are) will remain unopened for all eternity, those who dare to unstopper this whisky will find a complex and utterly delicious offering that is intensely polished with wonderfully integrated wood alongside deep, luxuriant flavours. Not quite otherworldly, but not far off.
Review sample provided by Fettercairn
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