Washbacks at Fettercairn distillery

Fettercairn Distillery

Earlier in the week we visited Fettercairn distillery which is in the loveliest of little villages, Fettercairn.

Fettercairn distillery
Outside one of the buildings at Fettercairn distillery

Fettercairn has a general store, a cafè, a dress shop which was incredibly busy when I went in – it seems people travel from all over to visit it – and of course the distillery. The village has a royal arch which was built to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who stayed overnight once.

Archway into Fettercairn
Encore dress shop

There are fields and fields of daffodils on all sides.

Field of daffodils
Fettercairn distillery. White buildings with a single cherry blossom tree not quite in full blossom but getting close.

Children can do the distillery tour and it’s excellent. We’ve visited lots of distilleries now but I feel like we learn something new each time; Fettercairn was no exception. Indeed Fettercairn is a bit unique because one of their stills has a cooling ring which was fitted in 1965. Apparently they’re the only distillery to have one.

The cooling ring smothers the outside of the still with cold water to condense the head, which is the first part of the alcohol to evaporate and is not used in the end product. Instead the head is condensed again until they get the heart which is the next and desirable bit. This cooling ring was in action while we were there. I took a short video of it which you can watch below.

The still with the cooling ring is front left in the photo below.

The whisky stills. The one on the left has the condensing ring.

A couple of years ago they planted 13,000 oak trees on the estate with plans to have their own cooperage. A cooperage is where the wooden casks for storing whisky are made. Currently many of these casks come from overseas and would have previously been used as bourbon casks or sherry casks. Fettercairn Distillery wants to make its own using Scottish oak produced sustainably.

Plaque explaining the vision for the distillery and the sculpture that was commissioned to celebrate the tree planting.
Sculpture by Rob Mulholland to commemorate the tree planting

This is the first distillery we’ve visited with an ambitious plan like this. Indeed Fettercairn very much takes local to heart, and has made a commitment to source all its barley from farms within a 50-mile radius of the distillery.

They have taken a similar approach to the washbacks which are all wood, mostly Douglas fir or Oregon pine, but also some Scottish larch which they want to use more of.

The tour cost £15 per person, is free for children, and you get to sample two whiskies at the end. There’s a more expensive tour option which gives you a greater selection of whisky to try. It’s terrific value as the tour guides are very informative and the sights and smells of the distillery give you a full sensory experience as well as a scientific and historical one. The distillery is almost 200 years old, after all.

Whisky samples at the end of the tour.

The whisky is very smooth and fruity. Delicious. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Heading into the visitor centre to sample some whisky after the tour.

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