Exploring Fettercairn's ultra-rare 200th Anniversary Collection

Exploring Fettercairn's ultra-rare 200th Anniversary Collection

The collection, of which only 10 sets will be available gobally, comprises six whiskies aged from three to 60 years matured in a variety of cask types — including the Scottish oak with which it has become synonymous

News | 03 Jun 2024 | By Bethany Brown

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Scottish distillery Fettercairn is marking its 200th anniversary with an incredibly rare collection of whiskies that celebrate key moments in its history over the past six decades.


The distillery, located at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains in the Scottish Highlands, was founded by in 1824 by Sir Alexander Ramsey, a vocal proponent of the Excise Act (1823) which created a framework for legal distilling in Scotland. Today it is operated by Whyte & Mackay, alongside the Dalmore, Jura, Tamnavulin, and Invergordon distilleries.


To mark its 200th anniversary, Fettercairn has launched a special collection of six whiskies, ranging in age from three to 60 years, which celebrate the contribution of distillery team members and blenders past and present to its single malt spirit and its distinctive tropical house style. Just 10 sets will be made available globally, with a final set residing at the distillery.


Andrew Lennie, single malt specialist at Whyte & Mackay, said the expressions represent “the DNA of Fettercairn, which has been looked after and cared for by a number of important people”.


Distillery manager Stewart Walker, who has worked with Fettercairn for almost 35 years, said: “I can visualise the guys who made the whisky. In the 1970s they were getting to the end of their career and they helped me to get where I am today... it's quite a moment, to be honest.”

The 1995, 1998 and 2021 expressions in the 200th Anniversary Collection.

The 200th Anniversary Collection comprises whiskies distilled in the following years:


– 1964: as well as being the year of distillery manager Walker's birth, this year predates the installation of Fettercairn's second pair of stills and was distilled while barley was still being malted on site. The whisky was matured in ex-bourbon barrels for 49 years before being refilled into a single Palo Cortado sherry cask in 2013. Recording keeping at the time was also not as fastidious as it is today, as Lennie explained: “There is a lot of mystery around it, so when you're trying or discover the source of some of these casks, it's not as easy as it is today.” At 60 years old, it is the oldest Fettercairn single malt released to date, with notes of caramelised pineapple, ginger spice, and deep sherry alongside bright red fruit.


– 1973: the year that the distillery opened Warehouse 14, its last dunnage warehouse (and the source of the most recent release in its Warehouse Collection). The whisky was matured first in ex-bourbon barrels, then was moved into tawny port casks before being moved back into bourbon barrels.


– 1988: marking the year of the retirement of Douglas Cooper, Fettercairn's longest-serving distillery manager . He was part of the team that introduced the distillery's copper cooling ring, an integral innovation in shaping its modern spirit profile. This expression was fully matured in an oloroso sherry butt.


– 1995: something of a passion project for Fettercairn's master whisky maker Gregg Glass, who diligently tended to and assessed the complex collection of casks — including new French oak and hybrid casks — used to create the expression. 


– 1998: another expression that was carefully monitored by Glass and which is felt by the team to be a great example of Fettercairn's tropical house style. The spirit was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel until January 2020, then transferred to an ex-Cognac cask.


– 2021: the year that Fettercairn launched its Scottish oak programme, which aims to enable greater use of Scottish-grown oak in the whisky industry. The rarest liquid in the collection, this whisky was bottled from the first Scottish oak cask that Fettercairn filled, a heavily toasted new cask. Offering notes of banoffee pie and sweet orange, the team consider it to be a pure expression of the influence these casks have on the Fettercairn spirit. Lennie adds that the whisky is “testament to what we want to be able to achieve in the future”. 

Fettercairn's unicorn logo on the outside of the collection cabinet

Each set is housed in a cabinet built by Scottish designer John Galvin. The cabinets are designed with holes in the wood, copper, and brass work to imitate the effect of dappled light through the leaves of an oak tree. Underneath each bottle is a coaster engraved with the tasting notes for that expression.


“In this collection, we have hand-selected casks to mark key moments in our past and our future,” said Glass. “This collection captures the spirit of all of us at Fettercairn — and that is why we are particularly proud of it.” 


The Fettercairn 200th Anniversary Collection will be made available in select global markets including the UK, France, Canada, and Taiwan from September 2024, priced at £100,000.

The bespoke cabinet for the 200th Anniversary Collection, designed by John Galvin

Fettercairn facts


Fettercairn’s symbol, a unicorn, is both a national animal of Scotland and featured on the family coat of arms of its founder, Sir Alexander Ramsey.


The distillery launched the Fettercairn 200 Club in 2022, an initiative that sees it source all its barley from within a 50-mile radius of the distillery in a bid to support local farmers and reduce its ‘malt miles’. Its suppliers include the Fasque estate on which the distillery is located, where it has also sourced Scottish oak trees for casks that have been used to mature, among other expressions, its 18 Years Old single malt.


Its most notable feature, and one that has a significant effect on the character of its new make, is the cooling rings fitted to its spirit stills. The first was installed in 1953 by then distillery manager Alexander Menzies as a way to increase reflux in the stills and create a lighter style of spirit. The cooling rings on both stills have recently been replaced, one in July 2023 and the other in January 2024.


While the majority of its liquid is matured in ex-bourbon casks, Fettercairn also has spirit maturing in red wine, sherry, port, Cognac, rum, and Japanese oak casks, as well as the aforementioned Scottish oak casks.


The distillery announced the release of a new core range earlier in 2024, all fully matured in ex-bourbon barrels: 12-, 16-, and 24-year-old single malts for global sale, and three travel-retail exclusives at 14, 17, and 25 years old.


In 2020 the distillery planted the Fettercairn Forest on the Fasque estate, the cornerstone of its Scottish oak programme. It comprises 13,000 oak saplings of the European Qercus petraea and Quercus robur varieties. It is estimated that the forest will take at least 150 years to reach full maturity, when the team predict there will be about 60 trees suitable for felling to build casks from.

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