Every year without fail, someone asks me if I’m planning on going along to the Dramboree. It’s a reasonable question and despite its repetitive nature, every 12 months I do seriously consider attending.
Despite being in its 6th incarnation for 2018, the role of an attendee has escaped me – or I’ve body swerved such an honour. Big plaudits go out to the organisers and what they pack into the weekend format for a one-off admission price that takes care of everything including your transportation from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Kudos where it’s due and for all those that lap up the whole community vibe and experience.
A magical whisky tour format is a great thing. The comradery infectious and there’s no better example than bringing your own bottle and then leaving it out for everyone to enjoy. Ultimately in these times of bottle chasing, excessive tasting prices, 1cl pours and investment portfolios, we forget whisky is to be shared and enjoyed. Not propped against a Lamborghini or cleavage for Instagram in an endless parade of photographs where the seal is never broken.
Whilst that community spirit is intoxicating, the thought of drinking through the night until sunrise or slumming it in basic accommodation is not my idea of a fun-filled weekend. The nearest possible comparison will be the rugged charm of the Art House Hotel in Rotterdam for the Whiskybase Gathering. Given it’s practically next door to the industrial venue, I can overlook the 1970’s apparel and funky theme that runs throughout its corridors with an emphasis on Jenga shapes. Still, I’m a big fan of the effort and finished article that is the Dramboree.
For 2017 the special bottling was a Fettercairn of all things and limited to just 90 bottles. Originally retailing for £39.95 and exclusive to the Whisky Shop in Dufftown, it’s recently been reduced to an inviting £29.95. Given that I poured this bottle as part of the Unloved Distilleries tasting in London, a Malt review is long overdue. The original concept being held on Valentines Day was going to be red and whiskies involving red wine casks to some degree. I felt this was an excessive prospect for the palate and being a fan of the epic My Bloody Valentine opus Loveless, the opportunity to flip things on their head was too good to overlook. Except the theme of casks for the 2nd night of tasting snatched the bottle from the proposed line-up.
Generally, I’m no fan of Fettercairn. That’s the fault of the official range, but on the basis of my recent Cadenhead’s 1993 Fettercairn and some initial skirmishes elsewhere it does hold potential. The bottle impressed during the tasting and was well received due to its balance and flavours. It’s a split cask with the remainder of the contents utilised for another Morrison & Mackay release. Left with the spirit and an order for just 90 bottles, the cask was re-charred and the whisky returned to its host for an unspecified period.
Re-charring can reinvigorate the cask and unleash some of those hidden 200 flavour compounds you can extract from the wood that may have been missing or muted previously. Depending on the degree of the char, the flavours and their forthright quality will also be affected. I’ve heard grumbles recently about some of the bourbon casks coming across from America being in poor shape and heavily charred. We’re certainly reliant on the good work elsewhere for the supply of our whisky vessels and I picked this bottling to demonstrate what charring can achieve within a short space of time.
The group that attended the Pig & Butcher tasting seemed to be of good standing and taste, so I’m hoping that this is confirmed by my own exploration in the sanctuary of my own home.
Dramboree Fettercairn 2009 – review
On the nose: spicy and alive for want of a better word. A toasted vanilla but not to a pungent degree. Oily and buttery, with a seam of rhubarb, crushed oat cakes and a floral note towards the end. The main thrust is brown sugar verging on toffee. Returning for another exploration after taking a sip, a spent matchstick is noticeable – not in a bad way – white chocolate and popcorn.
In the mouth: it has an uncouth nature with a rugged aspect. Cold toast, black pepper, liquorice and some all-spice. There’s a nice finish where the caramel revives and the body is cereal-based and freshly flipped pancakes.
I’m happy with this drinkable Fettercairn that displays a youthful vitality. As you can pick this up for a reduced price at the Dufftown Whisky Shop, there’s very little to argue with. One of the better Fettercairn’s and that re-charring of the casks has given this normally pedestrian distillery a boot up the backside.
Update: after writing this piece its been confirmed that 2018 will be the final Dramboree. A sad loss to the annual whisky festivities, it sold out immediately and will feature a visit to Deanston. No, I’m not attending but if you are going please have a wonderful time.