Tag Archive: Signatory Vintage

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.


Signatory Vintage: Strathmill 1996: 21 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Cask Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold with very slow, medium thickness puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Heather. Honey. Intense. Pine cones. Menthol jelly. Alcohol feel, but nowhere near its abv. Peppermint. Vanilla. Crushed dry rocks. Water adds more heather to it.

Body: Warming. Honey. Custard. Crushed rocks. Alcohol gets very present if held. Apricot and fruit syrup. Golden syrup. Water adds apple notes.

Finish: Clean meed sheen. Menthol. Some greenery. Golden syrup. Warming. Water adds thick pear notes. Apple pie. Malt toffee and malt chocolate. More more honey and mead as you add more water. Then fatty butter, dry oak and white chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok this somehow balances a nearly 60% abv spirit with over 20 years of soothing and it results in quite the sweet beast.

The alcohol is definitely there, but never burning – even if held on the tongue it just becomes very, very present. Instead the high alcohol shows itself as an uber thick, chewy, syrupy feeling dram.

It is very sweet, honeyed at its best into golden syrup at its heaviest with smoother custard notes in-between. There is syrupy apricot notes dropped in, and even the menthol notes have a jellied feel to them. I’m loving it. In fact I’m loving it so much that I am kind of nervous about adding water – but I need to see what happens for the notes. Right now it is just on the edge of being too much alcohol and sweetness but doesn’t quiet fall over. I love it.

Sooo, water. I put in a reasonable amount and it is still thick as heck but now with pear and apple sweetness added in for some more complexity. It is even better balanced and with better range. Score! Such a burst of big sunshine fruit.

You can pretty much batter it with water and it still works. Fatty and buttery notes comes out and it becomes a tad more easy going but still a heck of a whisky.

So, my first meeting with this distillery and I love it. Big, just about smooth enough, chewy and lots of flavours booming in a sweeter style. Oh yeah.

Background: A while back I made the list of living Scottish malt distilleries I had yet to try. This is the last of that list. Now a bunch of new distilleries have popped up since, not sure which have actually turned out whisky yet, or generally available whisky anyway, know at least one that has done a super tiny 3 year release. Still, BOOM LAST ONE! Now to make the new list. Also looking longingly at the dead distilleries I will most likely never try as they charge a grand a bottle. This was available as part of The Whisky Exchange’s “The Perfect Dram” 3cl bottlings of existing whisky – gave a me a good way of trying this older dram without dropping too much money, even if it is expensive an a per cl basis. This was from cask 2098, if that means anything to you. Went with X-Ray Specs: Germ Free Generation again as music, really giving that a play a lot at the mo. Looked this distillery up in one of Michael Jackson’s whisky books after drinking. He lists it as “The whisky world’s answer to orange muscat. With dessert” which makes a lot of sense to me after this one.

Signatory Vintage Glen Albyn 1978

Signatory Vintage: Glen Albyn: 1978 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 24 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Hazy with water.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Heather. Vanilla. Very smooth. Light smoke and coal dust. White chunks in tropical fruit tins. Pencil shavings. Water makes more dusty.

Body: Smooth. Oak. Vanilla. Light alcohol if left on tongue. Peppery. Water releases light glacier cherry and tropical fruit. White chocolate and light honey with an alcohol back. More water adds lime and toffee.

Finish: oak. Coal dust breathed in. Peppery. White chocolate. Light sulphur. Orange zest. Water adds tropical fruit tines and soft alcohol tingle. Slightly oily and honey notes.

Conclusion: Hmm, first impressions on this were exceedingly average, if anything can be such a thing. It was the very basic set of highland notes such as heather, obvious vanilla and such like. Very well delivered admittedly, smooth as can be, but since it is 24 years old that should go without saying. I was disappointed – it was slightly peppery and oaken – not bad notes but there was nothing stand out to recommend it for.

Water helps. Though I get the feeling the base spirit is quite neutral as what is brought out is a fine exhibition of the effects of bourbon barrel ageing. There is vanilla, white chocolate, tropical fruits – all very clean and smoothly delivered – with glacier cherries as sweet high notes. The base whisky just seems to add a light oily character to it for grip.

With water it does goes down a tropical fruit treat – however – best I can tell most of that is the clean delivery of the barrel ageing, and at the high cost for a dead distillery I cannot recommend it for that. It just delivers little unique to itself. However, that said, I am very much enjoying the show of the oak for what it is.

A very clean, smooth, whisky that lets the oak run wild. Glad I got to try it, but not worth dead distillery costs.

Background: I’ve been saving this one for a special occasion. Closed since 1983, the bottlings tend to only go up in price, so I grabbed one when I could, I kept it in the cupboard for whenever I wanted something unusual. Anyway, drunk while listening to various of the Warren Ellis compiled Superburst mixtapes, which don’t seem to be online any more, and taking time to kick back and just chill. This is cask 697 and bottle 354 of 365.

SV Glen Elgin 1995

Signatory Vintage: Glen Elgin: 1995 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 17 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light banana gold.

Nose: Slight stewed apples. Cinnamon. Nuttiness. Slight black cherries. Condensed cream. Apricot. Slight pepper. Water adds more apples, even more water makes very soft.

Body: Lime and nutty behind. Alcohol presence. Apricot and apples. Peppery late on. Toffee sweet. Water brings out more toffee and apples, and not much is needed to dim fire. More toffee and chocolate with more water.

Finish: Peppery. Barley. Slight salty mild cheese. Nutty. Fudge. Water adds chocolate. Water makes mainly fudge and chocolate with a hint of spiced apricot.

Conclusion: As a first introduction to Glen Elgin this has some fine range on it. Very full fruitiness, light apples and apricot with tantalising cherries on the nose. A bit full of fire neat, but tasty. Water brings a whole new level to it; the subtle nut backing becomes rounded into chocolate fudge sweetness which early on provides a backing for the fruit. Later on the sweetness becomes forefront with the fruit backing it. It is a good progression that never leaves a weak point mid shift.

With a reasonable amount of water it becomes more simple and more toffee based though still pleasant. With less water you get much more play, a peppery note to the body, and sweet cream in the nose. While fiery it is worth it for the extra levels of play.

Both the base whisky flavour and this particular expression are pleasant. It reminds me of the Hakushu 12, though this has more grounding to it. I prefer the Hakushu, this is not as fresh and open, but is still fine.

A very fine fruity and sweet expression.

Background; Drunk at the tasting rooms. Yes again. They have become quite the starting point to the week day drink up. This time Glen Elgin, not one I have had before, and coming in at a nice 17 years, so hopefully should have had plenty of time to smooth out the whisky. Spent a lot of time chatting with the staff while drinking so it had plenty of time to air.


Signatory Vintage: Laphroaig 1998 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 14 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light grain colour.

Viscosity: Very slow, puckers to middle sized streaks.

Nose: Butterscotch. Salt. Medicinal. Lemon sherbet. Honeycomb. Touch of oak. White grapes. Smoke and peat. Water lightens to a sulphur style.

Body: Good peat. White grapes. Butterscotch. Custard. Water adds meat broth, syrup and salt.

Finish: Smoke. Light oak. White grapes. Dry. Water lightens and adds beef slices. Some treacle and milk chocolate for sweetness.

Conclusion: An independent bottling of Laphroaig. Should be worth an experiment. This comes in much sweeter than the official bottling. It is smooth and without and hint of alcohol kick which allows real juicy grapes and sweet butterscotch to come through.

Before anyone calls heresy I will mention that there is still that medicinal and salt touch to the aroma . The body does lack a lot of Laphroaig’s traditional harsher elements thought it emphasises the peat and meat flavours. It is still Laphroaig but with a change of emphasis.

It is a refined Laphroaig, smoother even still than the quarter cask but without that lovely level of complexity.  It does have a great mix of Islay character and lovely sweetness.  Water makes even sweeter and more butterscotch dominated but I will say that the brasher character you get neat is much more to my taste.

A whisky for when you want to dance with the bigger flavours of Islay but don’t want it to punish you for it. Not the quintessential Islay but an exceedingly good bottling. I would highly recommend it. Distinctly Laphroaig and yet still distinctly its own thing.

Background: Bottled 2012 and non chill filtered, bottled from a hogshead cask. This was drunk at the tasting rooms and was one of the new bottlings they had got in.  I don’t often see independent bottlings of Laphroaig and it is a bit of a favourite so I decided to grab it.


Signatory Vintage: Highland Park 1987 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 24 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Gold.

Viscosity: Slow to break into streaks from the liquid. Thin and light when streaks do form.

Nose: Sweet vanilla. Light salty rocks. Smooth and toffee notes.; Dims when water is added.

Body: Smooth with slight rocks character. Sweet lime. Custard and toffee. Honeycomb. Water bring out full on honey and makes very sweet and an almost syrup texture. More toffee with water.

Finish: Lime jelly custard and, yes, toffee.  Dry shortbread. Light oak and smoke. Malt chocolate. Water makes for more chocolate and cough drops like honey taste.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, even for a Highland Park. By default it is notably smooth, but with water it becomes exceedingly so.  There is barely any island character, a touch of light salt and rocks but the main notable element is this real thick honey flavour.  There can be an almost cough drop like take on it with water and the texture, though smooth, has a syrup like quality to it.  Despite the finishes cough drop imitations at time it is still shockingly easy going.

It took me a while to get use to this, mainly as it was completely different to what I expected. There’s nice sweet notes of toffee, vanilla and chocolate dusted throughout laced over that light salty rocks.  It is very relaxing and , when you get used to it, a great texture that just slips down.

The honey can get too heavy, especially in the finish where it can be a bit sickly sweet, but that very slight rocks helps balance by reigning it in just a touch.  It’s a tasty whisky but doesn’t have anywhere near the robust range I was hoping for.

So a great texture, utterly smooth, good sweetness and a dash of rough offset. Could do with a bit more range but still tasty.

A good relaxing island walk of a drink.

Background: Bottled 2011, I found this independent bottling at the Tasting Rooms in Bath. Since I had a gift voucher for there form Christmas it seemed the perfect time to treat myself.  I love Highland Park and find it a nice balance of smoothness to island character.  The 18 year in particular is a favourite.

Signatory Vintage: The Un-chillfiltered Collection Fettercairn 1996 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very clear grain.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering and streaks.

Nose: Lime sorbet, grain and vanilla. Slight alcohol burn.  Very clean. Cheesecake, strawberry.  Water makes more floral bringing out heather.

Body: Meaty, with vanilla and toffee. Strawberry hints. Beef slices.  Water lightens the meat and makes more toffee and custard flavoured. Adds strawberry and a tinge of lime.

Finish: Beef slices and beef crisp dusting. Milk chocolate and slight bitter chocolate. Water makes lime and orange elements come out.

Conclusion: This carries a lot more weight than I remember my last (and only) sampling of Fettercairn having. Without water it has a nice meaty weight body which was not something I was expecting.  This doesn’t affect the favour that much, it is a definite smooth lime and sweet vanilla entity, but it does give it a bit of extra weight and grip.

The combination of extra weight and fresh cutting flavour makes for a surprisingly good combo. It weakens a bit with water, but still remains competent, so much so that I think preference for with or without water will be a mater of personal taste for most with this one.  While the whisky does not have the wide range that I tend to look for, it does work well at giving heft to the sorbet style flavours that can often be somewhat ethereal and badly defined.

A bit too much water can push it to being slightly heather and floral dominated, losing some of the flavour. Too little and it has a just slightly burning influence. There is a decent range between those two extremes though and even the extremes have their advantages.  Generally it is a pleasant easy drinking whisky, with a bit more freshness and weight than usual.

A nice Fettercairn expression, for the little experience I have of them. Not a favourite whisky but well balanced.

Background: Drunk at the tasting rooms. I’ve only encountered Fettercairn once before, in a bar while going on a distillery tour around Scotland. It didn’t make a huge impression then I have to admit. Then again I was kind of on whisky overdose during that holiday for some reason.   As the name suggests this hasn’t been chill filtered, this means it goes slightly cloudy when cold or when water is added, more importantly it means that is hasn’t been through a process which removes some of the elements that make up the flavours of the whisky.

Signatory Vintage: Caol Ila 1999 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky. 11 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very light grain tinge.

Viscosity: A mixed set of thin and fast streaks, medium thickness and slow streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Moderate peat and smoke. Almonds or maybe marzipan. Pencil shavings. Water makes slight charcoal and a sweet touch of orange crème centres.

Body: Smooth. Custard. Kippers. Dry touches. Beef undertones. Salt lightly. Orange. Water makes sweeter, a mix of custard and broth. Grapes.

Finish: Smoke. Very dry. Peat. Vanilla and orange. Less dry with water. Fudge and chocolate come out. White grapes.

Conclusion: I’ve spent so long trying different independent bottlings of Caol Ila that it gets hard keeping track of them for mental comparison.  I have an image of the one I consider my favourite and all items are compared to that, but I fear I have built up that whisky too much in my mind compared to its actual stature.

This the fact that this impresses me and stands out on its own is amazing as it has to fight against not just great Caol Ila expressions but my romanticised memories thereof.

Caol Ila always does a great balance of sweet spirit against a moderate salty island character. This does that but also adds the oddity of light fruit cream centres and grapes. The elements are so light that they could be nigh illusionary, but they float there making the base flavours just that touch brighter and more drinkable.  The subtle contrast you find makes it that slight cut above the usual expectations.

You need a touch of water to fully appreciate it. Without that it is too dry, similar to a lot of SV bottlings I’ve noticed. I can overlook that as with water the grape rounding to the main body give the impression of a complex whisky that has spent a few short years in an unusual cask ageing. All this in a comparatively young and standard aged whisky. Very nicely done.

A very well done independent expression and well worth it for any Caol Ila fan.

Background: Drunk in the tasting rooms. I’m a huge Caol Ila fan, though notoriously I have never tried the standard expression. A wealth of independent bottling. Yep. Aged version yep. Unpeated version. Yep. Distillers edition. Yep. The bog standard expression. No. I really should get around to that at some point.

Signatory Vintage: Ledaig 1993 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 18 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Just the lightest colouring of a brackish offset from clear spirit.

Viscosity: Multiple fast streaks form from the spirit quite quickly.

Nose: Light beef and oxo cubes. Peat and a touch of smoke. Vanilla custard backing it up Bandage dressings.  Becomes light and a touch more medicinal with water. More beef crisp like as well.

Body: Thick textured. Meat with a touch of barbecued sausage skin. Sweet custard. Water makes more custard creams and beef crisps with a touch of light egg white.

Finish: Slightly dusty. Shortbread and ash. Barbecue sauce. Beef like if water is added and a touch of light milk chocolate.

Conclusion: Over the years I have come to associate a slight tending towards harshness with Signatory Vintage whiskies. Not in a bad way, but most I’ve encountered have had a bit more pep than usual to them.  This then blew that conception away. It’s a whisky that brings the meat and peat you would expect, but brings it in silky smooth.

It’s sweet behind the massive long lasting beer flavour The finish in particular lasts forever with beer and sometimes a touch of chocolate.  This doesn’t make it a world shaker of whisky but it is solid and smooth. It’s a good one to check how you get along with peated whiskies before jumping in with both feet to the more heavy going distilleries.

A solid expression, sort of an established baseline of how a peated whisky should be, but without and extraneous features.

Background: Drunk at the tasting rooms, this independent bottling of the more peated of the Tobermory distilleries output that goes under the Ledaig label was aged in a hogshead cask between 1993 and 2011.  I’ve sampled Ledaig a few times, but this is the first time I have got around to tasting noting it.

Signatory Vintage: Linkwood: 1991 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 19 years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain.

Viscosity: A mix of thick and middling thickness streaks. Also odd mix of slothful and quick streaks.  Can’t really get a firm reading of the spirit from it.

Nose: Planed wood. Sugar dusting. Raisins and slightly plumy. Quite potent and rich with obvious spirit air, marzipan. Water lightens out allowing much more of the marzipan out and much less of the spirit.

Body: Custard sweet and significant alcohol burn behind it. Slight charring. Water makes slightly almond like. Water makes much sweeter with a golden syrup touch.

Finish: Light charring. Nutty. Quiet spirit style still. Slight malt chocolate, or perhaps chocolate almonds.  Clusters cereal.

Conclusion: Quite the intriguing aroma. Some of my companions described it as almost like meths. I wouldn’t quiet say that myself, but it is potent, requiring water to smooth it out.  Brings with it a lovely raisin, plum and nut aroma with the strength though.

The main body is very clean by comparison, not quiet paying off the promise of the aroma. Mainly a light nuttiness comes through. It works better with water which gives a nice sweetness and really lets the nuttiness take to the floor.

So without the water this is tad too much spirit, with water it feels somewhat like a less forceful Strathisla with it’s emphasise on the nuttiness.

Not too complex, but nice. Especially when you can get the burn down. For the years it has on it you would expects something tad smoother and more complex though.  So nice enough with water, but I can’t really see a reason to pick it over a good Strathisla.

Background: Drunk with friends at the tasting room.  Quite the range of whiskies were ordered resulting in the poor staff having to take down about half the bottles from the shelf.  I’ve never tried Linkwood before, so it was good to experiment.  I do like the range of bottles Signatory Vintage brings, though I will admit in my heart I probably prefer the Connoisseurs Choice range. Still it’s good to have the choice to pick from

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