Type: Single Malt Scotch
Age: 17 Years Old
Look at this picture of Greta Garbo. Grasp for the now-clichéd superlatives required to describe her skin, as free from flaws as the lacquer finish of a prewar Bugatti, her utterly empty yet captivating eye(s), and her exquisite lips that seem perfectly uninterested in forming a smile. Even now, eighty years past the time when her beauty drove men and women berserk, and she earned $250,000 per picture to wear pants and kiss whoever the hell she wanted on-screen, Garbo remains beyond critique.
Garbo’s first spoken line of dialogue– her very first after years of making silent pictures – was: “Geef me a vhiskey, geenger ale on the side. And don’t be stingy, baby!” Of course it was. Can you imagine a better one? Think about her, whiskey geeks, and give thanks the next time you clomp up to the bar, that your drink of choice has been infused with such glamour.
I certainly keep thinking about Garbo and her spectacular first line from Anna Christie while drinking this Fettercairn. And like the impeccable Garbo, I’m finding it very, very hard to find fault with this scotch. Its color is beyond reproach – a rich, gorgeous gold. Its nose is equally appealing, stuffed full of flowery aromas, a honey sweetness, and a bit of graininess.
After drinking one and a half bottles of this Fettercairn (yes, I bought a second bottle), I’m compelled to conclude that almost anyone who enjoys scotch will find some pleasure in this pour. To be clear, I’m not suggesting this Fettercairn is my favorite scotch, because it’s absolutely not. Just as Garbo, despite her beauty, isn’t my favorite actress. But I’m having one hell of a time finding a flaw in it. This Fettercairn is perilously close to seamless.
I’ve always had a soft spot for clean, straightforward scotch. Sure, I dig the sludgy goodness that oozes from Islay, and I have a growing taste for sherried Speysiders, but I adore the delicate scents and tastes of unadorned Highland whiskies. In particular, I really like the floral and honey flavors these whiskies have to offer, as well as the tastes of tropical fruit lurking in others. And this Fettercairn is awash in all of these flavors. Taken neat, it is pure honey and lavender, but with a bit of water added some mango suddenly appears, makes itself perfectly at home, and all is right in the world.
So, if you absolutely insist upon a certain degree of swampiness or tooth-ringing sweetness in your scotch, then you are not going to pick up what this Fettercairn so delicately places down. And that’s fine. But anyone who appreciates a whiskey that announces itself with a delicate clearing of its throat, rather than an enormous belch and an open palm to the middle of your back, may well find some pleasure in this very graceful, but somewhat tight-assed pour. Just don’t reach for this scotch when you’re hungry for a challenge because you simply won’t find it in this bottle. Other issues? Well, the biggest — as usual, these days — is price. I say that without judgment. Ninety dollars for a full-fat, unfiltered scotch from a tough-to-find distillery isn’t out of line in 2014. But the simple fact is that ninety dollars remains a lot of money, period. And if you’re saving pennies for intense, one-of-a-kind bottlings, this won’t fit the bill. It’s too graceful.
Meanwhile having found the Garbo of scotches, I’m still on the lookout for the Rita Hayworth of whiskies. Also the Barbara Stanwyck. Any suggestions?