Ferg & Harris – Secret Speyside 12

This 12-year-old cask strength whisky from Ferg & Harris Secret Speyside has aged for 12 years in a first fill bourbon barrel, after which it received a 6-month finish in a Pedro Ximénez Sherry Hogshead. And what a cask that must have been, because those 6 months turned this whisky into a true Sherry Bomb!

For fans of Ferg & Harris this comes as no surprise though, as the Independent Bottler from Edinburgh prides itself on the finishing casks they use. They always try to find casks that will complement the character of the original whisky and they lovingly nicknamed those casks “wooden cradles”. A place where whisky can be nurtured and protected, until it’s ready to step out into the world.

The fact that this is a “Secret Speyside” means that we don’t know which distillery it comes from. For legal reasons, independent bottlers are not always allowed to name the distillery on the label. This often provides for a very fun activity for the afficionados amongst us, as it gives you the opportunity to guess (and discuss at great length) which distillery it might have come from. When it’s from Speyside I usually steer clear from participating though, as the region now hosts more than 50 distilleries (almost half of Scotland’s) and I’m not that good at guessing… What I personally like the most about a “Secret” offering is that it allows you to enjoy the dram unbiased. By default, you enjoy it on its own merit.

Tasting Notes: Ferg & Harris – Secret Speyside 12
Stats:

ABV: 55,7% (111,4 proof)

Age: 12 years Old

Casks: Matured in a first fill Bourbon cask, finished in PX Sherry Hogshead.

Distillery: Undisclosed

Category: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Nose:

On the nose the sherry influence is immediately recognisable. Intense aromas of dark dried fruit beckon you to the glass. I’m finding dried figs, raisins, and dates. But there’s also a fudge note in there which is celestial. A little bit of milk chocolate seems to top it all off, giving me the sense that I’m about the experience liquid dessert in a glass. But when you get past all that initial sweetness there are some darker notes as well. With leather and tobacco both playing a role. Though this nose still sits on the sweeter side of things, those dark notes give it some welcome complexity.

Palate:

When you take a sip, you’ll immediately notice the thick and rich mouthfeel of this dram, with almost a syrup-like quality to it. The dried fruits carried through beautifully from the nose, though the focus for me now clearly lies on the dates. But all-in-all the palate is so much darker than the nose ever was. The leather and tobacco notes are much more pronounced and there’s an added layer of old wood and varnish. Which would have led me to believe this dram to be much older than it actually is, if it weren’t for the age-statement. Oak tannins provide a perfect amount of bitterness, steering it clear from becoming overly sweet like some sherry finished drams can sometimes become. This was an active sherry cask for sure, but the 6-month finish made sure it never became overwhelming. It’s balanced and complex throughout.

Finish:

With the high ABV of this dram and the intense flavours it has to offer, I kind of expected the finish to last a little bit longer. It sits a fair chunk above a medium length finish, yet it doesn’t really seem to develop any further. It leaves you with a warm sensation and the sense of just having finished some warm cooked fruit (like you’d find in a pie fresh from the oven). Very pleasant indeed, but far less complex and evolving than the nose and palate.

Verdict:

I said it before and I’ll say it again, what a cask that PX Hogshead must have been. In 6 months, it seems to have added the perfect amount of flavour to this Ferg & Harris Secret Speyside. Rich fruits, but not overly sweet, balanced out by dark notes, without becoming bitter. This is simply a very well-made dram. For those who like a sherry bomb, you won’t be disappointed. The ABV is noticeable though and newcomers to whisky might want to add a bit of water to tame it just a little bit. But for more experienced drinkers I think it’s perfect at cask strength. A lovely addition to the Explorers Pack.

Rating:

90/100

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