I have a friend. Well, I actually have more than one, but this is specifically about a friend called Joseph. Joseph adores Fettercairn; absolutely loves their whisky, the distillery, and their location. I agree on location because, being from the North East of Scotland, I too trumpet about the scenery, the rowies (oh god, the rowies), Doric, the castles, the tiny and picturesque fishing villages, and, of course, the whisky. However, I’ve never really bored anyone to death when the topic of Fettercairn has materialised. Glendronach? Well, take a seat, we will be here a while, but Fettercairn? Up until recently they were a distillery I had very little experience of – I have never been and have only had a few expressions.
Owned by Whyte and Mackay (who also own Tamnavulin, Jura, and Dalmore), the bulk of their output, up until recent times, had always been for blends. In 2010, they brought out 4 expressions; 2 NAS, which were the Fior (which this review covers), the Fasque, and 2 aged statements, a 30 and a 40 Year Old. These releases were part of a rebranding to try and gain a foothold in the single malt market, unfortunately though, with the age expressions limited in quantity and the Fior and the Fasque limited in quality, the desired foothold never gained traction, and the distillery ended up rebranding again in 2018 with a core range of age statements which have had, to be fair, a greater impact and success.
So, the Fior. It’s Gaelic for ‘True’, has an ABV of 42%, with colourant added and it’s chill filtered – it wouldn’t be a Whyte and Mackay whisky without these. I bought this drunk – no, really – at auction for a total of £61.25 (proof in itself of inebriation). This purchase occurred during a Zoom call with the afore-mentioned Joseph who was passionately championing his favourite distillery and their whiskies. Easily mislead, I placed a bid for the Fior, forgot about it, and then received an invoice a week later asking for payment…
So, the Fior is a marriage of 14 Year Old sherried whisky and younger peated spirit from first-fill bourbon casks, with the peated spirit making up approximately 15% of the marriage.
Colour: Dark with a tangerine hue to it. Rested in a Glencairn for 10 minutes.
Nose: A sweet woodiness is at the fore, similar to Hickory, with roasted peanuts and subtle vanilla pods. Dark cocoa too. A wee shoogle releases a faint floral fragrance of roses and violets. It’s more complex than I was expecting, which is always a positive.
Palate: Toasted almonds which are slightly burnt and caramelized, followed up with a dull oakiness. There’s some nutmeg and cinnamon which leaves a persistent yet faint spice, and the dark cocoa floats about for the duration. I pick up some stewed rhubarb and apples but they’re overpowered by a distant yet noticeable smoke, which is unfortunate.
Finish: Medium finish with the singed note carrying on in to the finish along with some cloves. It leaves a waxy smattering around the roof of my mouth.
It’s a decent smelling whisky which becomes gradually more confused and muddled – I can’t help but feel that the younger peated whisky is holding it back and they should have just gone for an age statement sherried dram. Do I regret this purchase? No, even if my review may suggest otherwise. It was bought to enjoy with a friend and that’s exactly what we did. I feel like that’s more important than being able to say it was fantastic purchase. Would I buy it again, though? An altogether different question, of which the answer is a resounding no. In comparison to their newer releases, I can see why this didn’t have the same impact – even the branding and bottling is quite ugly. Their new core range bottlings are a definite improvement, in particular the 16 Year Old chocolate malt. Try them if you can, and be wary of whisky auctions whilst pished and easily impressed…