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Fettercairn

 
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bifter
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 24, 2013 7:51 pm    Post subject: Fettercairn Reply with quote



Just visited Fettercairn distillery today with my eldest son. I was up in that neck of the woods this weekend and thought I'd take advantage. I looked online before my visit and noticed a Trip Advisor report dated April, 2013 that said it costs £3.50 but when I got there the advertised price was £5, some inflation! There also seems to be contradicting information online about opening hours but I believe tours are available from May to September, Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, last tour at 4pm. They could really do with a dedicated Web site, a page even!



The tour itself is quite short taking around 25 minutes though we were shown round by a very knowledgeable lady who's husband was distillery manager at Jura for 15 years. Unfortunately they do not allow photography inside the distillery itself (for health and safety reasons?!) but I was able to get a few outdoor snaps on a dreach Kincardineshire day. As usual we followed the stages of production in linear order, starting with the grain delivery bay. All the barley is pre-malted in Abroath or Montrose. We weren't shown round the grain bins or the mill but they still have a (disused) malting floor with some traditional tools on display. We were then led outside and past the dam, where water from the local spring is held, I managed to get a quick shot of this.



We were ushered into a large building and intially past the stills (two wash, two spirit) to view the mash tun, which holds five tonnes of grist. We were then shown into a couple of rooms to the back of the building with eight Oregon pine washbacks, a couple of which we were allowed to look into. The overwhelming scent was of bananas and I stuck my head too far into one of the washbacks only to flinch as my nostrils were stung by the CO2! The fermentation time is usually 48 hours.



The spirit stills at Fettercairn are unique so it's a shame I couldn't get any snaps, though there are enough online if you want to see. They are the only ones in Scotland with a "cascading still", basically a pipe running round the top of the still neck that dispenses cooling water down the outside of the neck. It's quite a sight! We were informed that the stills are heated by steam produced via oil burners. We couldn't see the condensers as they were on the other side of the wall. Each distillation run (starting with that five tonnes of grain in the mash) yields around 2,000 litres of new make. Most Web sites I've seen put the annual output of Fettercairn at 1.6m litres however our guide put it much higher at 2.3m. She also said the distillery had now been running continuously (i.e. 24 hours a day) for the last eight years. 95% of the spirit produced goes for blending, the owners being Whyte and Mackay.



Lastly we were shown into a bond which had been specially converted, with a small viewing room allowing us to look into a large dunnage warehouse, stacked three high. Most of the casks that were visible were clearly bourbon barrels. Apparently the oldest whisky onsite is 65 years old. I asked about the dods of colour on some of the lids. Apparently they used to paint the lids, as many distilleries do, to denote the year of production but this practice ceased with the advent of barcoding. The dods of colour however are still useful for the workers to find the right casks in the warehouse. After this we were taken back to the visitor centre to enjoy a dram of Fettercairn Fior in a dimmed projector room, where a schmaltzy video played. At least this is probably more subtle than making you exit through the shop, which is next door, though I did take the opportunity to look at their wares (see below).

As interesting as the production process is the history of the area and of the distillery itself. If not one of the most celebrated malts, Fettercairn at least has the distinction of being one of the very first (legal) distilleries in Scotland. Prior to the passing of the the Excise Act in 1823, many landlords turned a blind eye to illicit whisky production on their land as it provided a means to their tenants of paying the rent. Fettercairn was founded in 1824 by Sir Alexander Ramsay, originally on the site of a converted corn mill, to legitimise whisky production in the area. Fettercairn also has another strong link to the history of whisky as it was owned by Sir John Gladstone from 1890 until 1926. It was his uncle, William Gladstone, who was instrumental in shaping the bond and duty system as we know it today.



So to the shop! In the past Fettercairn had 10 and subsequently 12 year old expressions but not much else. The launch of a rebranded Fettercairn range took place in 2010, three years after acquisition of Whyte and Mackay by Vijay Mallya. The unicorn logo on the Fior and Fasque labels is a symbol of purity and part of the coat of arms of the Ramsays. The theme is continued in the name, Fior, which is Gaelic for purity. Fasque, another NAS expression, this time unpeated, is the name of the estate of which the distillery was once part. As well as these there are 24, 30 and 40 year old bottlings, bearing the image of the Royal Arch (see below), which commemorates the visit of Victoria and Albert in 1861. At the distillery they also sell a cask strength release that was matured for five years in sherry quarter casks, followed by four years in a bourbon cask. It was nice and very smooth however, at £70, I thought it a touch pricey at the age. If I had had the opportunity I would have quizzed our guide more but we were with a large gaggle of other visitors. However the entire range has a strong sherry influence and those I tried were nicer than I expected considering some of the comments they have attracted from critics, if priced at a bit of a premium. I gather the buyout of Whyte and Mackay by Mallya was heavily leveraged so perhaps the interest payments are high! With Diageo now buying Mallya out it will be interesting to see what is in store for Fettercairn distillery in the future.

Hope you enjoy the pictures though I had to be quick and they were taken on my phone camera (except the arch below, borrowed from Wikipedia) - glad this isn't a photography forum!


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James T
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whoever owns Fettercairn i am sure it will remain no more than a feeder distillery for blended whisky.
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bifter
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

James T wrote:
Whoever owns Fettercairn i am sure it will remain no more than a feeder distillery for blended whisky.

I'm sure you're correct but assuming Diageo haven't lumbered them with as much debt to finance (and this could equally apply to Dalmore and Jura) will we see more competitive (realistic?) pricing for the malt they do release or a change to the line up? The Fior was OK but, like its stable-mates, I though it drowned in caramel and so-so sherry, I wouldn't pay £35 for it.
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Brummie
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A great piece on your visit to Fettercairn bifter.

I didnt realise that Diageo had taken over Whyte & Mackay, it will be interesting to see what they do with all the W & M whisky brands.
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bifter
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brummie wrote:
A great piece on your visit to Fettercairn bifter.

I didnt realise that Diageo had taken over Whyte & Mackay, it will be interesting to see what they do with all the W & M whisky brands.

Thanks, Brummie. Diageo actually took a controlling stake in United Spirits, which acquired W&M in 2007. However, checking the Web today, It looks as if they may yet have to dispose of W&M in order to satisfy the OFT, meaning yet another change of ownership. I can't see Diageo putting any time or money into them until this issue has been resolved.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/diageo-will-have-to-wait-to-integrate-usl-in-totality-113081201121_1.html
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William
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes great piece on your Fettercairn visit bifter. It is annoying that they do not allow photography and claim it is for safety reasons. I am pretty sure the standard tour price was only £2 back in 2010. Worth a visit just to see the unique self cooling spirit stills.

There is quite a big question mark hanging over the future of Whyte & Mackay until the UK's competition authority has completed its review. I am sure Diageo would love to keep hold of all of United Spirits Limited Scotch whisky brands but they may not be allowed to but i would guess Diageo wont be too upset if they have to offload the Scotch whisky brands as they will still have the enormous Indian whisky and spirits brands USL owns such as McDowell No. 1 which is the largest whisky/spirits brand in the world.

USL is the biggest player in the the Indian market which is the biggest spirits market in the world, said to be worth $6.1 billion and is forecast to grow at 15% in value over the next 5 years. Diageo will just be happy that they now have a big chunk of this market and they will be able to use USL to distribute their existing whisky, spirits and beer brands in this huge market.
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Mark
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It does annoy me when a distillery tells you that you cant take photographs, if there really was a riskof explosion they would have to stop you taking all electrical equipment on the tour.

I would guess it was the Indian side of United Spirits that Diageo wanted and wont be to bothered if they have to offload Whyte & Mackay
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Samson
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whoever ends up owning the Dalmore i would love to see them drop the colouring as i reckon there is a very good whisky behind all that E150a caramel colouring.
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bazf
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
It does annoy me when a distillery tells you that you cant take photographs, if there really was a riskof explosion they would have to stop you taking all electrical equipment on the tour.


I have to admit I burst out laughing when glenfiddich told me my camera and phone were an explosion risk when right next to us was a huge flat screen tv, DVD player and 230v sockets all non EX
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Keith
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bazf wrote:
Mark wrote:
It does annoy me when a distillery tells you that you cant take photographs, if there really was a riskof explosion they would have to stop you taking all electrical equipment on the tour.


I have to admit I burst out laughing when glenfiddich told me my camera and phone were an explosion risk when right next to us was a huge flat screen tv, DVD player and 230v sockets all non EX
The BBC showed the rerun of Still Game earlier this week, it was the episode where they visit Glengoyne distillery and the tour guide told them to feel free to take photos which is not the case when you visit Glengoyne today, they tell you not to take photos.

Anyway the episode of Still Game is excellent and forth a look while it is still on the BBCi player

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00791y9/Still_Game_Series_5_Drama/
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Kenny M
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers Keith, i watched Still Game at lunch time, hilarious.

"Charlie Wonka and the Booze Factory" Laughing
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Andy M
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Such a pity they stopped making Still Game, the distillery visit episode is excellent.
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Charlie
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2013 12:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Keith, i watched the Glengoyne episode of Still Game twice tonight
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