Here is the third, and penultimate, in my mini-run of reviews of recent Signatory exclusives for K&L. Will this hold any surprises as Monday’s Benrinnes did? I expect not as this is not my first sherried Blair Athol of this general age from this period. I’ve previously reviewed a 25 yo and a 26 yo, both from 1988, both from sherry casks and both bottled by van Wees. My understanding is that Signatory is also the source of van Wees’ casks; if that’s true then that bodes well for this one: I liked both the aforementioned (though one more than the other) despite their being at 46%; this one is at cask strength.
The strength is not the only difference though: this one is much more expensive than those van Wees bottlings were and that discrepancy is hard to ascribe only to the different strengths as the price multiplier is almost 2x. Whether Signatory or K&L are the source of the markup, I’m not sure but it made me very reluctant to pay for a full bottle considering how much less I had paid for the others (one bought for myself and one bought for friends). K&L’s marketing spiel would have it that the last Signatory Blair Athol 25, 1988 sent customers into a frenzy, with people calling to ask for it well after it sold out; that doesn’t seem to have translated yet into big demand for this one as, at time of writing, a lot of it is still available. Anyway: let’s see what this is like.
Blair Athol 26, 1988 (54.3%; Signatory for K&L; sherry butt 6844; from a bottle-split)
Nose: Very close to the van Wees 26 yo with a lot of sweet orange with drying notes of leather and some polished oak. Cinnamon in the second wave and some wood smoke too. As it sits it gets drier and spicier. There’s sweeter stuff lurking below (raisins, brandied figs). With time the sweeter notes begin to emerge but now it’s apricot and curacao. More of the apricot still with water, apricot jam to be precise; some toffee too.
Palate: Drier from the get-go than on the nose but very much in line with it: leather, spicy (but not tannic) oak, dried orange peel, dried shiitake mushrooms, beef stock; just a hint of savoury gunpowder too (not offensive in any way). Gets sweeter and stickier with time; in fact, it gets a bit cloying and just a bit metallic—let’s see if water fixes that. Hmmm not really and the mouthfeel becomes a bit too thin.
Finish: Long. The wood is more prominent here but otherwise it’s as on the palate, getting spicier as it goes. Water makes it drier still on the finish and pulls out more of the gunpowder.
Comments: Well, this is very good and, though I’m sorry to say it, probably good value these days for a 26 yo, sherry matured whisky at cask strength. I shudder to think how much this would cost if it were a Glendronach single cask or a Springbank—I mention those names because heavily sherried malts from those distilleries are what this put me most in mind of. If you have $180 to spare and like this general profile, and want to have a ~25yo whisky on your shelf, this wouldn’t be a bad use for it.
Rating: 88 points.