Signatory Vintage: Coleburn 1983 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 14 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Slow medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Heather. Peppery. Lots of oak and pencil shavings. Moss. Cinder toffee. Alcohol fumes. Water adds sulphur and boiled eggs. More water clears to toffee and moss.

Body: Apples to apple pie. Oak. Tannins. Soot. Peppery sweets. Cinder toffee. Light strawberry. Black pepper. Charring. Water adds vanilla toffee. Sulphur. More water makes quite clean flavour and slightly oily.

Finish: Aniseed. Oak. Greenery to moss. Soot. Slight charring. Slightly numbing. Spicy. Water brings out sulphur. More water makes slightly oily.

Conclusion: So, a commonly used phrase with whisky is that “you can add water, but you can’t remove it”. That applies double when you only have a miniature to play with. Triple when that mini is this one.

Neat this starts out fairly dull, but develops in quite interesting ways. It is initially peppery and heather led. Which is not much to write home about, right?

There is more than that to come though. Initially the only release from the more savoury notes is an apple pie sweet base, but over time it eases out into a far more fun cinder toffee sweetness. Even the peppery character starts to alter to remind me of those deliberately hot peppery sweets that I bought as a kid. It is still a bit sooty, still a bit musty overall, but now at least interesting to go along with that. There are unusual and pleasant layers under the more Milquetoast front.

Anyway, so, playing with water. Water kind of brings out the worst in this. Initially it brings out an eggy sulphur like touch into a sort of slight sulphurous oiliness. Not a good element in itself and it hurts the whisky overall by overwhelming some of the more interesting subtle flavours.

More water relaxes the influence of the worst notes, but also the good ones. It turns it into a very generic whisky. Nothing good, nothing bad.

Overall, when had neat it has some interesting quirks, but is generally straightforward. Water ruins it. As a general priced whisky this would be sub par. As an expensive dead distillery whisky I say avoid.

Background: Coleburn is a long silent distillery, so when I saw that The Whisky World had a miniature of it I snapped it up. Most silent distilleries are out of my price range, so – while millilitre for millilitre miniatures are expensive, they give me a chance to try distilleries I would normally not be able to try. Signatory Vintage tend to be a very solid one for independent bottlings so I had confidence they would be decent. This was bottled back in 1997, which explains why there was some rust on the container’s metal lid. A quick research in my books tells me Coleburn was build back in the 1890s and lived right through to the 1980s (1985 to be exact) , so this is right from the tail end of its life. It’s spirit was always intended for use in blends, so bottlings are comparatively rare. For a whisky like this I wanted some appropriate music so went with the electrical oddity wonder that is Marie Davidson’s Perte D’identite.