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Monday, December 14, 2020

Fettercairn 19 year old 1996 Chieftain's, cask 91131 (my bottle)

I regret to say I may starting this five-part Chieftain's week with a whisky the others can't match. On the other hand I'm happy that a Fettercairn could be the peak of a whisky week. This Fettercairn conquered my other Chieftain's series almost five(!) years ago. Such was its quality that I bought two bottles and got in on a bottle split of a third. My review pour comes from a first bottle sample. Here's the second, unopened, bottle:

Complete with casket

Distillery: Fettercairn
Region: Eastern Highlands
Owner: Emperador Distillers Inc
Independent Bottler: Ian McLeod
Range: Chieftain's
Age: 19 years (September 1996 - October 2015)
Maturation: Oloroso cask finish
Cask number91131
Outturn: 474 bottles 
Alcohol by Volume: 57.4%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No
(from my bottle, bottom third)

The color is much lighter than the picture leads on. The nose seamlessly spins and merges a plentitude of characteristics. There's toasted barley and dark chocolate. Here's some soil, machine shop and befouled hay. Then cherry lollipops, candy corn and apple pie. How about fresh cherries and guava juice? Yes 'm. The palate shows off a very nutty sherry, full of walnuts and raw almonds. It's also earthy and rooty, and loaded with baking chocolate and hay. Hints of baking spices and bitter herbs rest below. Fruits sneak out into the finish; think tart limes, dried apricots and dried cherries. The roots, rocks, bitter herbs and raw almonds remain, now joined by jolt of Thai chiles.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Dried apricots and dried pineapple slices appear in the nose, followed by toffee, roasted almonds, chalk, clay and something "dirty" though I'm not convinced it's cask sulfur. Now diluted, the palate has become snugglier, with apples, pineapples, pink peppercorns, almonds and dark chocolate. The finish matches the palate, adding a peppery glow.

When I reviewed this whisky five years ago, I had no idea it was the result of an Oloroso finish, thinking it'd had a full maturation in a stellar example of that type of sherry cask. I'm still fascinated by caliber of its cask integration. In fact I'd take this whisky over ~95% of the full-term sherried whiskies I've ever tried. Though I compared this whisky to a few other distilleries in the first review, after 30+ ounces of experience I see this Fettercairn as Ben Nevis's sibling. It can certainly compete with some of those lovely 1991 Signatories. That's some good company.

Availability - There may be a few bottles still floating around at American retailers
Pricing - $125-$150
Rating - 90