Fettercairn’s 40 year old was the distillery’s oldest officially bottled expression until earlier this year when a £10,000 50 year old from 1966 was announced. The new Fettercairn range also includes a 40 year old (£3,000), which is somewhat similar to the previous ‘Vintage Range’ release from 2009 in that both the old and new expressions were matured in Apostoles palo cortado sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass in Spain. The previous Fettercairn 40 year old, distilled in March of 1969 formed a release of just 463 individually signed bottles delivered at 40% ABV.
Nose: A heady and intense mix of well-aged and lacquered wood – mirror-shine polished mahogany, ebony and teak. Rather like a wood-panelled library packed full of old leather bound books. Supporting this are highly concentrated fruit aromas –Cointreau blood orange, ginger spiced orange marmalade and waxy lemons. Further fruits can be detected in the background – reduced and stewed stone fruits – apricot and peaches – ripe bananas and preserved strawberries. Running throughout is chocolate cake richness – a Black Forest Gateaux – and some interesting burnt/smoky aromas - roasted peanuts and charred paper. Resting provides enhancement – binding all the aromas together with both frangipani and wisps of golden tobacco. This whisky is not shy about its age or wood influence - the result is quite glorious.
Taste: A rich, full and mouth-coating arrival (despite the low ABV of 40%). You’ll need to enjoy aged-wood influence here, as there’s tons of it – polished, lacquered, oiled, planed and chipped. Pleasingly whilst this introduces a lot of dryness, it somehow avoids becoming a tannin-fest. It does bring with it plenty of aromatic spicing though – sour, slightly bitter – cumin and cinnamon. Across the palate, rich and reduced fruit – much more tropical than on the nose – banana, pineapple, mango and hints of tart grapefruit juice. In the back palate, both drying, bitter herbal tea, espresso and super high cocoa solid chocolate. Resting allows the natural herbalness of the Fettercairn spirit to shine – heathery floral honey, cut stems, pine and a hint of potpourri.
Finish: Very long, with spiced, nutty (hazel) wood, Terry’s Chocolate orange and quite a lot of dryness.
The nose on this Fettercairn 40 year old is superb – just the sort of antique furniture shop character that I adore in well-aged malts. The palate continues in this vein, but is not quite so perfect – there’s just a little bit too much wood and bitterness to achieve the dizzying heights initially promised. Nevertheless, there’s a wonderful journey here – from an aged wood yard through a spice bazaar and tropical plantation onward to coffee shop for a drink and a slice of cake. Age, complexity and character – check.
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