Fettercairn 1988 (Antique Lion's of Spirits) Review

“ Jailbreak”

Whisky Review # 884

Country: Scotland
Region: Eastern Highlands
Brand: Fettercairn 1988 (Birds Label)
Bottled By/For: Antique Lion's of Spirits in 2016 - 292 Bottles
Type: Single Malt (Single Cask) Scotch Whisky
Age: 28 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 50.6% (Cask Strength)
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon cask
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 310-340 (July 2020)
Price/Quality Ratio: 😔It's quite interesting but it's a lot of money. A sample will do!
Buying Advice: 👍It's got character and it's different. Unusual in 2020!

Colour: Pale Straw/White Wine (Natural Color)


Make sure to give this Fettercairn some time in the glass before Nosing to get rid of the initial strong waft of Varnish. Once gone the Nose makes a balanced but quite straight-forward impression. It's Medium-Sweet, Buttery & Fruity but also provides Dairy, Grassy and Floral notes. Quite pleasant with well-integrated Alcohol.

Main Aromas:

Sweet Toasted Barley, German Butter Biscuits, Vanilla, Apricot-Flavored Yogurt, Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin, Lemon), Pineapple, Forest Floor after Rain, Grass & Straw, Milk Chocolate and Polished Leather Upholstery.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Buttered Toast, Heather-Honey, Bread, Yeast, Wax, Toffee, Nectarine, Green Apple, Pear, Marzipan, Caffe Latte, Salty Bacon, Wet Paper, Slivovitz, Cigar Ashes, Banana Ice-Cream and Cinnamon.


Bitter-Sweet, Fruity and Herbal. A few Sour and Dairy Notes as well. Wood and its Spices are more noticeable now and so is the Alcohol. It's got quite some character of its own, something you hardly find in modern whiskies anymore. This is far from Mainstream Malt and also quite different from the mediocre Fettercairn introduction Malts.

Main Flavours:

Sweet Malted and Toasted Barley, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Yeast, Grass and Straw, Citrus Peel (Orange, Mandarin, Lemon), Green Apple, Marzipan, Apricot-Flavored Yogurt, Green Apples, Pineapples, Milk Chocolate, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pepper and Cloves.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Heather-Honey, Toffee, Buttered Toast, Wax, Golden Syrup, Slightly Sour Berries, Slivovitz, Rum-Soaked Raisins, Banana Ice-Cream, Damp Wine Cellar, Caffe-Latte, Nutmeg, Mint and Leather.


Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet and Medium-Dry. The Bitterness increases towards the end. The Cask speaks louder here along with its Spices. The Alcohol is also more noticeable at this point. It's quite different from your average Single Malt vintage 2020 and that's a big plus. You could argue though that it overstayed its time in the cask with a few years. I find Sweet Malted and Toasted Barley, Vanilla, Pineapple, Banana-Flavored Ice-Cream, Milky Way Candy Bars, Salted Caramel, Honey, Wax, Yeast, Grass and Straw, Marzipan, Dusty Oak, Citrus Peel, Green Apple, Plum Jam, Leather, Yogurt, Dried Herbs, Cinnamon, Ginger, Pepper, Cloves and Mint.

Drinking Advice:

This Fettercairn does not improve with added Water.

Rating: 86.5

Nose: 22 - Taste: 22 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21.5

Drinking Experience Neat: Good


The Fettercairn Distillery was founded in 1824 by Sir Alexander Ramsay and is located in Fettercairn, Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire in the Eastern Highlands. It changed hands many times in the past but mainly belonged to Whyte & MacKay that was bought by Emperador Inc. in 2015. The two pairs of stills produce around 1,5 million litres of Alcohol per year. The core range exists of the 12, 28, 40 and 50 Years.

The new core range was launched in 2018 to put Fettercairn back on the Single malt map. As known, this Malt is mainly used for the Whyte & MacKay blends. We visited Fettercairn in May 2019 and it's well-worth the effort of getting there. Wonderful small, picturesque distillery. The visitor accommodations are still rather primitive but the Tour is quite nice.

Antique Lion's of Spirits is a recent collaboration between Lion's Whisky, Whisky Boutique (Italy) and Jens Drewitz from German Indie Bottler Sansibar.

I really enjoyed tasting this Fettercairn although I felt it somehow didn't give me its full potential. Personally I would have bottled it a few years earlier in order to get a better balance between cask and spirit. The Cask did give the spirit character and a mind of its own and that's great & a rare thing these days. But I got the impression that the spirit got slightly "mad" and unbalanced in its wooden prison. Well, maybe that's just me. In any case this Fettercairn is really nice to sort out and try to find its soul. It can't be cheap of course but it's well worth the ride.

Jan van den Ende                                                                            July 20,2020

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