Independent Spirit: Fettercairn (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 7 Year: 56.2% ABV)
Visual: Deep gold.
Viscosity: Very slow, medium thickness streaks.
Nose: Very viscous, jelly like, alcohol. Lemon curd. Apple pie. Heather. Custard slices. Pepper. Water brings light oak, vanilla, and a smoother character. More water brings a fresh lemon and citrus mash-up and apricot.
Body: Initially smooth then ramps to burning warmth. Oaken. Apples. Water brings lots more apples, pepper. More water brings custard, light strawberry, tinned tropical fruit, apricot and lemon sorbet. Later apple pie with sugar and pineapple jelly.
Finish: Oak. Warming and numbing. Pepper. Water brings light treacle, soft fudge and malt drinks. More water adds heather, strawberry softness, tropical fruit and apricot.
Conclusion: Ok, neat this is freaking rocket fuel. It is vodka jelly like, oh my god shouting level strong. Yet, for those of you who have already read the background, you know that I helped pick it being released at this abv. What is up with that? I mean, it is young at seven years, and 56.2% abv, surely that is a terrible plan? Why would I recommend that?
Well, I did so because of the depth you can get from this with some water play to find your sweet spot. Even neat there are apple hints, pepper notes and sweet backing against lemon curd. Ok admittedly that is rapidly lost behind the alcohol burn, but is a hint to the fact that there are some big flavours here. Tellingly, when I first tried it blind, I thought that it could be calvados or some other apple brandy cask finished. It really shines with soft, sweet apple notes in a fashion that usually comes from that kind of cask ageing. I really wanted that unusual character to be preserved and not lost to a lower abv expression.
Now, neat this is is interesting for a couple of sips, but seriously don’t keep drinking it like that or you will kill your taste-buds. This thing can take a metric shitload of water – in fact it is probably the only whisky I have tried that can take so much water that I actual regret the poor quality of water around here as the flavour of the whisky is still good, but I can feel the elements of the hard water coming through. I should invest in a water filter again really.
Anyway, with a little water you have an intense, calvados aged feeling, custard sweet, peppery whisky. With more water it finally hits its stride. There comes out a huge amount of fruit – from subtle strawberry to apricot, to the expected tropical fruit influences of bourbon ageing. During this it never loses that sweet apple taste that first made it appeal to me. You have to add a mad amount of water before that vanishes. It is a serious wave of flavour and here it is a very enjoyable, very bright, very fruity whisky.
Now, it never stops being a young whisky, and showing that younger character – and even with a wealth of water here is a slight alcohol edge to it. So, with water it is still a slightly rough edged one, and without water very rough edged, but you get a whisky that mixes the exuberant fruitiness of a young whisky with the illusion of calvados ageing, and the subtle pepperyness of an older whisky. It is a rough edged gem, but one I enjoy examining.
Background: Welcome, to another tasting note I will confess a possible bias warning to. When Independent Spirit were trying to decide what strength this should be bottled at, I assisted with some tastings to give my opinion. We went with this cask strength in the end. So, yea possible bias. This is one of 50 bottles of this cask strength whisky available that was distilled in 2009 and bottled 2016. This was drunk while listening to the utterly terrifying soundtrack from “It Follows”, I was hoping to counter my possible bias by creating an acoustic counterpoint of potential dread. Good movie as well BTW, a very unsettling, creepy horror film.