Tag Archives: Signatory

Imperial 1995 18-year-old (casks 50284+50285)

Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 24th March 2016

Ratings:
87.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)

The independent bottler Signatory Vintage (SV) seem to be dominating the market with releases from the closed Imperial distillery. In 2016, according to the whiskies listed on Whiskybase, big independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail released one bottle of Imperial, as did Duncan Taylor, whereas SV released 16. These were either single cask bottlings or a combination of two or three casks. So you have to think that SV bought up a lot of old stock from the Imperial distillery, which was demolished in 2013 but production had been mothballed since 1998.

Not only does SV have a lot of old casks from Imperial, they seem to be exclusively from whisky distilled in 1995. They’ve been releasing numerous bottles from this year since 2011, either at cask strength or 46%, and always un-chillfiltered and natural colour. Other independent bottlers have Imperial casks post-1995 showing that the distillery was still producing whisky as late as the fateful 1998. So it won’t be long before the youngest new bottlings will be a minimum of 20 years old. Collectable? Definitely but maybe not returning a profit for a while given the way SV are flooding the market. It’s almost as if they know there’s a whisky boom!

Having tasted this bottle of Imperial (I have a 19yo as my investment) I would agree with the excellent score on Whiskybase. This is a fantastic old Speysider. It’s a great shame it’s gone but SV are certainly making sure it’s not difficult to get hold of, for now. I suspect that prices may follow a similar rise to bottles of Littlemill (dismantled in 1997), which were quite reasonable a few years ago but are now rare and £200+.

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:
Nose: Apple, almond, caramel, vanilla, honey, citrus and a whiff of smoke.
Taste: Honey, hazelnut, caramel, citrus, beeswax, white pepper and vanilla.
Finish: Caramel, hazelnut, honey, vanilla and chestnut.

Glen Mhor 1978 14-year-old, Signatory

Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016

Ratings:
76/100 – Serge Valentin (Whiskyfun.com)
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

Glen Mhor was one of many Scottish distilleries to feel the brunt of the whisky slump of the early 1980s, closing in 1983 and being demolished in 1988. Whiskybase currently have 170 different bottles of Glen Mhor listed on their database, 10 by the distillery and the remaining 160 by independent bottlers. The top three independents are Gordon & MacPhail (38), Signatory Vintage (22) and Cadenhead (14). My miniature is by Signatory and at 14-years-old it’s the youngest of the 22 listed on Whiskybase. Although 83/100 is a reasonable score it’s the second lowest of Signatory’s 22 versions of Glen Mhor with 5 bottles scoring a very impressive 89/100 or more.

Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun (and one of the Malt Maniacs) reviewed this Glen Mhor in 2005 and gave these tasting notes:
Nose: rather fresh starting on some fruity notes like green apple, kiwi, pink grapefruit and also some sherry. Develops on cereals: grain, muesli… It goes on with some porridge, yoghurt, caramel. Whiffs of white pepper. Really fresh, fruity and lively, with some jolly nice yeasty notes. Just a bit dusty, but the cask was still very neutral, it appears… Oh, some nice and bold vanilla fudge developing after fifteen minutes or so.
Palate: the mouth feel is quite powerful, the attack being little sour and unbalanced. Certainly less clean and fresh than the nose suggested. Some hot milk, brioche, yeast… Green vegetables, hydromel, bitter beer (like Bombardier). It gets even sourer after a while, and drying at the same time. A bit of apple vinegar… Too bad, it gets then even worse, with some disturbing offbeat notes.
Finish: is very sour, on green tomatoes and over-infused tealeaves

glen-mhor-14yo-1978-5cl

Braes of Glenlivet 1979 15-year-old, Signatory

Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016

Ratings:
84/100 – Serge Valentin (Whiskyfun.com)
78/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

‘Braes of Glenlivet’ sounds more like a pop group of horses than the name of a whisky distillery. Thankfully the name was changed to Braeval in 1994 to avoid any confusion with the neighbouring Glenlivet distillery. It seems a tad unfair since Braeval is one of only three distilleries in the glen of the river Livet, the others being Glenlivet and Tamnavulin. Braes of Glenlivet began life in the early 70s to provide malt for the Chivas Regal blend. The distillery was mothballed in 2002 but reopened in 2008 as the demand for Chivas Regal grew.

Braeval is a true blending malt because there’s no mention on Whiskybase of the existence of a single malt direct from the distillery. The book ‘Discovering Scotland’s Distilleries’ says the principal single malt is by an independent bottler and called ‘Deerstalker’, released as a 10yo and 15yo. At 40% and 46% respectively, neither score particularly well (much like my miniature by Signatory). It’s the cask strength releases of Braeval that get the accolades.

Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun summaries my bottle of Braes of Glenlivet by Signatory with, “interesting, really interesting – I can’t remember having had that much parsley in a malt before.”

Tasting notes from Whisky Fun:
Nose: quite some sherry but also unusual notes of varnish and parsley. Develops on dried oranges and bread crust, milk chocolate, getting then very herbal (dill, chive, coriander…) Very interesting. Also something slightly metallic, motor oil…
Mouth: not too bold but not weak, sort of strange, starting on overripe oranges but also lots of paraffin. Notes of cod oil (err…), cardboard, clay… Gets then very herbal again (dried parsley, thyme). I’m wondering whether there isn’t quite some peat in there. Unusual notes of green curry, Madeira, and retsina… That’s right, it’s quite resinous.
Finish: isn’t too long but balanced and satisfying, on peppered strawberries

braes-of-glenlivet-15yo-1979-5cl

Glen Albyn 1980 12-year-old, Signatory Vintage

Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016

Ratings:
67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

Yes, I confess I bought this miniature even knowing its poor rating on Whiskybase. But the problem is not due to the size of the bottle because the full 70cl version can only muster 61.33/100 from 3 votes. One member explains why “very, very, very strange whisky. One of those notorious bad casks of Signatory in the past. The distillery used to have a hit-and-miss reputation as well. Seems that this whisky has matured in an oil barrel.” Oh dear. We get to enjoy their tasting notes later.

So why did I get it? Because I’ve become a crazy collector of ‘Signatory Vintage miniatures in cardboard tubes’ that’s why! You had to ask. I now have a total of eleven, seven of which are from closed distilleries. To be fair on myself this Glen Albyn mini was being sold with two others, neither of which were considered to be as bad. Normally I would say that miniatures are a cheap way of getting a taste experience from a closed distillery but this Glen Albyn wouldn’t be a fair example. The liquid is better off staying in the bottle and joining the investment merry-go-round or tucked away in someone’s collection (mine for now).

Here are the tasting notes from Malt Martin on Whiskybase:
Nose: What’s this! Lots of gasoline. Like filling up your car at a petrol station. First I thought this was due to my glass, but it is really the whisky. Acetone and plastic. Later on some leafy and flowery notes. Biscuits.
Taste: Astringent and sharp. Orange peel. Lemon grass. Zesty. Also cereal and porridge. A little perfume. Lavender. Heather. Very strange again.
Finish: Medium long. Sourness. Pepper and a little nutmeg. Bitterness at the end.

glen-albyn-12yo-1980-5cl

Port Ellen 1979 14-year-old (600th post)

Bought: Whisky Auction, 5th October 2016

Ratings:
85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 maniac votes)

It seems fitting that my 600th Whisky Den post is about the iconic Port Ellen, arguably the most famous closed distillery of them all. Production stopped in 1983 and Diageo now own the remaining stock. The maltings from the old Port Ellen buildings still exists and continues to supply the other Islay distilleries to this day.

Whiskybase members have added 996 different releases of Port Ellen to their database. 26 of these are the distillery releases by Diageo, the rest are independent bottlings with the top 3 being: Douglas Laing (166 bottlings), Signatory (154 bottlings) and Gordon & MacPhail (90 bottlings).

My miniature of Port Ellen is by Signatory and scores a very respectable 85/100 on Whiskybase albeit from 1 vote. The bigger bottle, which is effectively the same whisky (listed here on Whiskybase) scores 84.67/100 from 3 votes. One member leaves the comment “tropical, juicy citrus-y starfruit with coconut oil. Touch of pungent fermenting malt. Refine smokes building up on palate gradually and sticky spicy oil remains. Rather short finish with ginger hot and ash smokes take over at the tail.”

81/100 on Malt Maniacs is a good score from them. One of the maniacs, Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun, gives the score of 83/100 and the following tasting notes:

Nose: Fresh, spirity, feinty and peaty. Smoke, cereals, rubber.
Mouth: Peaty, feinty and peppery… that’s more or less all.
Finish: Rather long but really lacks complexity.

Here is a video of the Port Ellen maltings, Islay, by Whisky.com (Feb 2016):

port-ellen-1979-14yo-5cl

Killyloch 1972 22-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 9th August 2016

Ratings:
86.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

When did production of the Killyloch single malt stop? It’s the question on every whisky enthusiast’s lips. Well, not really but it is a bit of a mystery. Some say 1985, others 1970, which is quite a wide gap. Both Glen Flagler and Killyloch were stills set within the Moffat grain distillery so not distillery locations in their own right. Moffat closed in 1985, which is where some of the confusion comes from but the production of Killyloch ended over a decade before. There are only 3 bottlings of Killyloch listed on Whiskybase, two from 1967 and one from March 1972 so this stuff is extremely rare. It also suggests that Killyloch single malt ceased production in the early 1970s, possibly later in 1972.

MaltMartin, a member of Whiskybase, scores my miniature example of Killyloch 86/100, which is a fantastic score. He leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: Astringent and sharp at first nosing. Lemon and lime. Orange peel. Floral notes and cut grass. Nettle and heather as well. Some garden mint. Later on pronounced aroma of new leather.

Taste: Hot, spicy and zesty. Esters of kiwi and green apples. Grapefruit bitterness. Hints of bergamot. Toasted oak as well. A little vanilla. Honey. The palate reminds me of the high strength Cadenhead Authentic Collection bottles of the 90’s.

Finish: Medium long with spices of black pepper and clove. Almost medicinal. Pine. Liquorice. Becomes salty at the end.

killyloch-1972-22yo-5cl

Millburn 1983 17-year-old by Signatory

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 13th April 2016

Ratings:
84/100 – Whiskybase (from 4 member votes)

Millburn started out as the ‘Inverness Distillery’ in the early 1800s and spent some time as a mill later in the century. The distillery became Millburn in 1904 with the formation of the Millburn Distillery Company, drawing its name from the source of the water from the nearby Mill Burn. It survived a fire in 1922 but not the slump in the whisky industry in the 1980s. The distillery was closed in 1985 and demolished in 1988.

Although bottles of Millburn are quite rare there are 83 separate releases listed on Whiskybase, 80 of which are by independent bottlers. Gordon & MacPhail have released the most with 26, Cadenhead come second with 11, and Signatory (who made my bottle) have 9 releases.

84/100 on Whiskybase is a pretty good score albeit from only 4 member votes. Expert whisky reviewer Mark Dermul leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: The nose offers a strange mix of mashed potatoes, butterscotch, Sevilla oranges, hay, butane gas and cardboard. After having breathed for a bit, it becomes somewhat perfumy. Dried flowers? Mint! My first encounter with Millburn was equally strange. I am getting the feeling that Millburn and me are not a very good match.

Taste: It is mildly oily and immediately both sweet and salty. The sweet translates into candied sugar, Turkish Delight, maple syrup and caramel, while the salt counters nicely. Seems like peanut butter. And I have to admit, this is actually quite good. This Millburn is rehabilitating big time. The cardboard is never far off, though.

Finish: The long finish on lightly bitter oranges and spices take the doubt away.

Comments: After a weird nose, this lost glory gets totally back into the game.

Millburn 1983 17yo 70cl

Rare Ayrshire (Ladyburn) 1975 37-year-old

Bought: KWM Wines & Spirits, 1st February 2016

Ratings:
90/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

Having closed in 1975 and demolished the following year, some 40 years ago, I wasn’t expecting to ever add a bottle of Ladyburn to my collection. Bottles are certainly very rare. Amazingly I found this one for under £200 and snapped it up fast. The independent bottler Signatory use the name ‘Rare Ayrshire’ rather than Ladyburn to describe the source distillery, possibly because they don’t have the rights to the original name. But it’s very much Ladyburn and most definitely rare.

The lowland Ladyburn distillery was built within the bigger Girvan grain complex in the mid 1960s so it only lasted 10 years. In 2009 the Prince of Wales opened another single malt facility at the Girvan plant called Ailsa Bay, which released its first bottling in February 2016. It’s quite harmonious that I bought a bottle to go with the Ladyburn distilled 4 decades before. My examples of lowland whisky are on the increase and with this Rare Ayrshire scoring 90/100 on Whiskybase, I’m delighted I got a good one.

Here is a You Tube review by ‘Master of Malt’ of a younger 34yo version of this Signatory ‘Rare Ayrshire’:

Rare Ayrshire 1975 37yo 70cl

Longrow 1987 8-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 16th December 2015

Ratings:
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 5 maniac votes)

Longrow is the name given to one of the three single malt variants produced by the Campbeltown distillery Springbank. On the distillery website they say, and I quote “first distilled in 1973, Longrow is the result of an experiment carried out by our chairman, who set out to prove that an Islay style single malt could be produced on the mainland. Today, our heavily peated, wonderfully smoky whisky is available in three bottlings – Peated, Red and 18yo.”

A favourite dram of mine is the Springbank 10yo and I love Islay whisky so it’s a mystery to me that I’ve never tried a Longrow. Why?! Simple because there are so many whiskies to choose from but I will have to make an exception for Longrow and try it soon. It sounds like it has the makings of something quite special. Voters on Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs clearly think this particular example is an excellent one.

My miniature of Longrow by Signatory was in an auction with 4 other miniatures but I did my research and discovered an identical bottle had sold on its own for £7.25 in May 2015. Incredibly another bottle had sold for a staggering £39.50 in February 2014. It goes to show that not every whisky has been shooting up in value in the last few years. Some may have already peaked. In the current market I doubt this miniature would be worth more than £10 but it only takes two Longrow lovers at an auction to send the price sky-high.

Longrow 1987 8yo 5cl

Convalmore 1983 14-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 16th December 2015

Ratings:
81.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 6 maniac votes)

Convalmore, much like Coleburn I blogged about yesterday, was another Speyside distillery that bit the dust in 1985. Another similarity between the two distilleries was their output, which was destined (and designed) for blending, rather than turning into single malt. But when a distillery closes everything changes and it’s more profitable to whoever gets the remaining casks to bottle them up individually and sell them off as rare treasures (even though they might not taste that nice). At least with Convalmore there’s a better chance of finding a good one than Coleburn. The author of Malt Madness says the first seven samples he tried of Convalmore scored above average, which is encouraging.

81/100 and over 81/100 from the Malt Maniacs and Whiskybase is a respectable score for my miniature Convalmore bottled by Signatory. The bottle still has a good level for something produced in 1997 almost 20 years ago. One of the Malt Maniacs, Serge Valentin author of Whiskyfun, scores this dram 80/100. He says the nose is “interesting but simple” having started with a “fresh hazelnut skin”. In the taste he finds creaminess, sweet fruit liquor, Malibu, bubble gum, marsh mallow, grassy notes, cold herbal tea and concludes with ‘robust but simple’. The finish he finds “long but bitter” with burnt vegetables. In summary it seems he only scores it as high as 80/100 because of the “special notes of hazelnut skin” in the nose. His complete review can be found here.

Convalmore 1983 14yo 5cl