Fettercairn, one of the most beautiful distillery in Scotland
We are going to share with you another of our passionate memories in this "Trip through the Highlands" and this stage in a unique distillery! Back in September 2019, after the legendary The Balvenie and Glendronach distilleries, here we are today in a distillery with a much more discreet name, but rumored to be one of the most beautiful in Scotland: Fettercairn!
Located in the Eastern Highlands not far from Aberdeen, founded in 1824, Fettercairn was born from a collaboration between a businessman, Sir Ramsey, and illegal distillers. He only gets the precious sesame, an operating license, after the crown opened legal distillation. Paradoxically, once his situation is regularized, he continues to employ former illegal distillers to work with him. Indeed, at that time, these shadow makers were the only ones with the necessary knowledge to make good alcohol.
Today Fettercairn joined Dalmore and Jura. These distilleries have the same owners, which give each of them greater means to invest and maintain their respective know-how and personal character. Fettercairn thus has a completely unique character in Scotland and in the world of whisky.
We are going to talk about flavours of mango, lychee, tropical fruits and we are not in Barbados or Jamaica in a rum distillery but in Scotland.
I invite you to discover the production process, and especially the distillation process, which makes Fettercain a real "fruit bomb" as the English speakers say.
When we arrive at the distillery, we are greeted by a legend, a very stable on his feet man with a huge smile: Stewart Walker, Distillery Manager, at Fettercairn for 30 years!
The incredible luminosity of the place is the first thing that marks us. The distillery has been completely repainted in white, as at the time, and gives us an impression of immaculate purity. The cellars, the Kiln, the distillation room… That's a fact : Fettercairn is indeed one of the finest distilleries in Scotland to date!
On the production side, Fettercairn receives up to 120 tonnes of barley per week and can produce 2.2 million liters of alcohol per year.
Up to the distillation, the process is similar to most other distilleries: malt grinding, brewing, fermentation (medium 56h in quarantine wooden wash backs). At this point we have a sort of hop-free "malt beer". But what interests us here more than elsewhere, happens in the "still room".
Stewart Walker, who knows the distillery by heart, guides us through this maze. It's easy to get lost from room to room, on the small staircases that swirl through these nearly 200-year-old buildings.
The buzzing so typical of the still room rises, it sounds like warm heartwarming music in my "maltophile" ears.
Besides, the temperature is rising. We enter a real sauna, the temperature and humidity are extreme in this room, almost suffocating atmosphere, much more than in other distilleries! The other curiosity that strikes me when I discover the still room is the wear of the stills ... What is Fettercairn hiding from us? What are they doing to their precious copper giants?
The 12,000 liter pear-shaped "Coppers Pot Stills" are sprayed with water during the distillation process. Drawn from the river that comes straight from the Cairngorms Mountains, a ring projects fine droplets of water continuously on the outer wall of the still which is white hot. The "Still Room" is in fact… a hammam. The water flows just a few seconds before it evaporates with loud noises!
The stills, over time, acquire a deep green patina, the traces of runoff seem to be embedded in the metal.
In this room, the temperature is close to 40°C… both machines and men are working hard, with the sole aim of producing a unique whisky!
So why this extreme process? The answer is in the distillate, the brandy produced ...
This brandy, which comes out of the Fettercairn stills, is one of the lightest and most fruity in all of Scotland!
The cold water, trickling over the top of the still, cools the marquee, creates condensation inside the "pot" and releases the alcohol vapors that rise inside. This technique, in other words, increases the reflux. The more reflux there is in the heart of the still, the lighter the distillate coming out of this bubbling hell. Lightness, purity: sweet words that invite you to taste.
We emerge from the Still Room redder than a whisky aged 20 years in a Single Ruby Port Cask (sorry, sorry, a little joke in the field).
Today, the Fettercairn distillery produces mainly for third parties, such as the blenders that buy distillate from it. It only keeps a few percent of its production for official Single Malt bottling, only for cellarmen and Travel Retail.
To discover this precious whisky which is aging peacefully, we head to the cellars! Here tradition is respected, dunnage-type cellars, on clay. The barrels rest on the ground and share their breathing with the earth for 12 years, 20 years, 50 years, or even more!
Then Stewart Walker ope us the doors of a sort of Malt paradise… the rest will be censored as the taste pleasure we experienced was so powerful… Without laughing, these people in Fettercairn are downright dangerous!
In order of tasting:
- 12 years Bourbon barrel (classic range)
- 28 years Bourbon barrels (yes it goes up very quickly, very high)
- 30 years Oloroso Sherry Cask
- 46 years Bourbon cask
- 10 years Bourbon cask
- 17 years old Sherry Oloroso cask
- 40 years old Bourbon and Sherry cask
- 53 years Sherry Oloroso cask
- 54 years old Bourbon and Sherry cask
- 50 years old Bourbon and Port barrel
The time stretches out peacefully, the view over the Scottish countryside is superb! This end of the day is a treat to discuss our passion around a 50 year old dram.
Whether you are looking for a gourmet aperitif or a light whisky for the summer, want to introduce a loved one, or just explore the world of whisky, this Fettercairn 12 year old is for you. It’s atypical and simply excellent.
In the program: a freshness on tropical fruits, a lightness of texture a little oily, a certain florality ... and in the background the fattest and most melted malt aromas which remind us that we are tasting a whisky all the same. SLAINTE MHATH!
Article written by Quentin T.