Fettercairn’s 30 year old comes from a single vintage – entirely from Spanish oloroso sherry butts laid down on the 25th October 1978. Botted at 43.3% ABV, the expression was part of the distillery’s Vintage Range released in 2009. 3,000 bottles were produced and sold, initially for a shy under £200. Over the years since, this price has unsurprisingly risen as the supply of bottles has dwindled – you’ll struggle to find any at retailers (at a price you’ll be prepared to pay). Likewise, there’s a premium for auctioned bottles - one sold on SWA last month for £300 (plus fees).
Nose: Sweet, syrupy and unusually herbal. Treacle, rum-soaked raisins, golden syrup and a scattering of red berries allude to the oloroso sherry influence here. It’s prominent, but at the same time temperate (I.E this is not a sherry bomb). Supporting this is an interesting, but slightly left-field blend of herbs and greenery – pine needles, ferns, bracken and moss. Oakiness is present (as you’ve expect from 30 years of maturation), but delivered in the form of wood preservative, boiled flax oil and amber-like tree resin. In the background, hints of apple and apricot fruit tea, dusty dunnage and almonds. The addition of water brings out heathery highland honey as well as fresh mint, sugared rhubarb and wax candles.
Taste: The arrival has a touch of weight to it, and initially delivers plenty of polish and lacquer – sharp, woody, almost metallic in places. Joining are flavours of Christmas – well soused fruit cake, mince pies and even some spruce-like Christmas tree. Red and black berries and chocolate again derive from the use of sherry casks, but they’re not quite either as old, or as fresh as they could be – instead, there are flavours of wallpaper, dusty floors and playdoh. Steeped fruit tea infusions run throughout – slightly tart and bitter. Reduction achieves several things – more berries and some soft butter biscuits (base) – but also more pronounced herbalness – spearmint chewing gum and pine needles.
Finish: Long with bitter fruit tea and sappy resinous wood.
Fettercairn 30 year old is a bit of an odd duck. The nose is very welcoming in a abstracted way – rich and sweet, but at the same time green, fresh and seemingly more youthful than the age-statement would suggest. The palate is alas less successful –whilst the combination of aromas from the nose translates over well, here, the delivery feels somewhat underdeveloped, bitter and overly dusty. The end result is a pleasant whisky, but not one that has the level of opulence or refinement that you’d expect from either three decades of maturation, or the price tag.
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