Unnamed Orkney 14, 2006 (Signatory)


Okay, let’s bring to an end this week of reviews of recent’ish releases in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. The week began on Monday with an Ardmore 11 that was matured in ex-Islay casks. It continued on Wednesday with a bourbon cask Glenrothes. Both those casks were unusual expressions of those distilleries’ profiles but neither got me very excited—though I did like them both. The final whisky for the week is more in line with the distillery’s official profile: this is a Highland Park from a refill sherry butt. Yes, it says it’s an “Unnamed Orkney” but unless word emerges that casks from Scapa are also being sold under these “Unknown/Secret Orkney” appellations, it’s safe to assume these are all Highland Parks. I did a whole week of Highland Park reviews last month (here, here and here). I liked two of those quite a lot and was only a bit disappointed by the one official release in the lot (though I didn’t think it was bad). Let’s hope this one is more in line with the two indies from the last go-around. Continue reading

Glenrothes 11, 2010 (Signatory)


From Ardmore in the eastern highlands we move a bit north and a bit west to Glenrothes in the Speyside. Like Monday’s Ardmore this Glenrothes too was bottled by Signatory in its Un-Chillfiltered Collection series and was also matured in a bourbon cask—albeit, unlike that Ardmore, this was not an ex-Islay cask. And like the Ardmore this is a recent release—both were bottled in 2021. Bourbon cask Glenrothes is not very common—most of the official releases from the distillery, past and present, have involved sherry casks in the vattings. As a result, Glenrothes is one of those distilleries—Highland Park is another—whose official profile is associated with sherry maturation, and it is to the independents we must go to get a sense of what their spirit is like when matured entirely in bourbon casks. I think I’ve mentioned before that I rather like bourbon cask Glenrothes and also that I have samples of a few ex-bourbon Glenrothes bottles on my shelves. And I think I may also have been promising reviews of those samples for almost as long as the blog has been active. Well, if I like this one maybe I’ll actually get around to digging those out and reviewing them as well. Continue reading

Ardmore 11, 2009 (Signatory)


Last week featured malt whiskies from three different Indian distilleries (Kamet, Amrut and Paul John). This week will feature malt whiskies from three different Scottish distilleries. In a further connection, they’re all bottled by Signatory—and to be more specific, they were all bottled in Signatory’s Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Bottles in this series, usually but not always at 46% abv, were a major part of my malt whisky education more than a decade ago. I lost track of them for a while after that but was very glad to see a bunch of recent releases in the series on the shelves of a local liquor store in early May. I bought two of those and both will be reviewed this week. First up, is an Ardmore 11, 2009. I am—as is no secret—a big fan of Ardmore’s peated profile, with its emphasis on pepper, mineral notes and fruit. I didn’t realize until I got home that this cask might not display those qualities. Why? Well, because the label says “Bourbon Barrel after Islay” which I take to mean an ex-bourbon barrel that had previously held Islay whisky. If a heavily peated one, those notes might easily overpower Ardmore’s more delicate profile. Did that in fact prove to be the case? Read on. Continue reading

Mortlach 10, 2008 (Signatory for Spec’s)


Friday’s Mortlach, an official release for travel retail, didn’t impress very much. As I have some readers who are not very familiar with Mortlach I feel I must try to not leave them with a ho-hum impression of the distillery. Accordingly, I’m following that review with a full slate of Mortlach reviews this week. I’ve not tasted any of these bottles before but am hopeful that at least one of them will give a better idea of what Mortlach whisky’s appeal can be than that Alexander’s Way did. First up, is a 10 yo bottled by Signatory in its Un-Chillfiltered Collection series for Spec’s in Texas. As per Whiskybase a number of these 10 yos from 2008 were bottled by Signatory for stores in the EU as well, all matured in bourbon barrels just as this one was. Indeed, this one is a vatting of four bourbon barrels for a total release of 964 bottles. I believe barrels generally yield a little over 200 bottles. Dilution down to 46% brings the number up. I’ve always had a soft spot for Signatory’s UCF collection—when I first started out buying indie releases this was one of the lines I bought a lot of bottles from. It used to be pretty ubiquitous in the US and pretty reasonably priced. As to whether this Mortlach was reasonably priced on release in 2018, I don’t know—but I do hope it’s a good one. Continue reading

Ballechin 10, 2010 (Signatory)


This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.

It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading

Ardlair 6, 2011 (Signatory)


After a week of non-single malt whisky reviews (rum, Irish, bourbon) let us return to our normal programming, which also means a return to Scotland. This week will see reviews of three whiskies from the same distillery. That distillery—in case you’re wondering what “Ardlair” is—is Ardmore. Ardlair is apparently the name given to their unpeated malt (Ardmore, as you know, is one of the few Highlands distilleries that normally distills peated malt). As to whether this name is used by the distillery or is required to be used by independent bottlers, so as to protect the distillery’s branding, I do not know. For all I know, it’s a Signatory-only naming convention. At any rate, I’ve never tasted unpeated Ardmore before and so am looking forward to this one even though it has two potential strikes against it, going in: 1) It’s very young; and 2) it’s at a stupid strength. Will the brilliance of the Ardmore distillate shine through anyway? Let’s see. Continue reading

Glen Ord 9, 2011 (Signatory)


Alright, let’s keep highlands whisky week moving. My first review in February was of a Glen Ord and my first review of March is also of a Glen Ord. I rather liked that 11 yo from Cadenhead and am hoping this 9 yo from Signatory—bottled at an eye-watering 61.1%—will be as good. This one is from a bourbon barrel, and a first-fill barrel at that. Hopefully, that does not indicate very heavy oak influence. Let’s see.

Glen Ord 9, 2011 (61.1% Signatory; first-fill bourbon barrel 800324; from a bottle split)

Nose: Apple to start here too but much sweeter than in last month’s 11 yo and mixed with cereals, malt and candied lemon peel. As it sits some oak emerges as well and then it begins to get maltier and muskier with overripe pear joining the apple. With more time and air there’s some sweet melon and the malt expands as well, picking up some cream. With water the oak recedes and the malt and musky fruit expand; there’s some ripe berries in there too (for my South Asian readers: ber).  Continue reading

Ben Nevis 25, 1991 (Signatory)


Alright, after a week of peated Islay whiskies followed by a week of rums, let’s do a week of older whiskies; specifically a week of 25 yo and over whiskies. First up is a Ben Nevis distilled in 1991 and bottled in September 2016 by Signatory from a sherry butt. As regular readers of the blog know, I am a big fan of the idiosyncratic malts made by Ben Nevis. Always fruity, Ben Nevis usually gets even more so with age. The last Ben Nevis I reviewed was a 23 yo from a refill sherry butt and I loved it. I also really liked this 22 yo from 1997—also from a sherry butt—and this 21 yo from 1996 from a refill sherry butt. And for that matter I’ve previously reviewed three other sherry cask Signatory 1991 Ben Nevises—a 26 yo, a 24 yo and a 22 yo—and liked them all very much (though I do note that I liked the 26 yo the least). I guess what I’m saying is that sherry cask maturation rarely seems to get in the way of the pleasures of Ben Nevis’ distillate. Anyway, let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Unnamed Islay 28, 1992 (Signatory)


I started this week of reviews of Islay whiskies at Bowmore on Monday for a 17/18 yo bottled by the Whisky Exchange in 2013. Wednesday saw a stop at Caol Ila for a 13 yo bottled by the SMWS in 2019 or 2020. Here to close the week now is a 28 yo bottled by Signatory and released this year. Alas, I cannot tell you which distillery it is from as it’s not listed. Signatory released a few of these this year and on Whiskybase at least they’ve all received rave reviews. There seems to be disagreement about what distillery these are likely from—and, of course, they may not all be from the same distillery. They’re none of them single casks, by the way. Instead they’re all vattings of bourbon barrels. Refreshingly, the label notes this and also notes the number of the final vatting cask. If only more producers would do this instead of pretending that vatted casks are single casks. Anyway, this particular release—from vatting cask 6768—is said to be a Lagavulin. The sceptical response to this speculation is that everyone selling an unnamed Islay probably wants buyers to think it’s a Lagavulin. Well, whatever it is, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading

Clynelish 21, 1995, Cask 8688 (Signatory)


Clynelish week began on Monday with a 23 yo second-fill oloroso butt bottled by the American outfit, Single Cask Nation. That was just excellent. Here now is a 21 yo refill sherry butt bottled by Signatory. Given my stated cask preferences for Clynelish—ex-bourbon and refill sherry over heavier sherry influence—you might expect I’d be likely to like this one even more. But individual casks easily buck trends/preferences. I liked that 23 yo quite a bit more than another Signatory-bottled Clynelish 21, 1995 that I reviewed a few years ago. Where will this one fall? Let’s see.

Clynelish 21, 1995 (51.2%; Signatory; refill sherry butt 8688; from a bottle split)

Nose: Very similar to the 23 yo with leafy notes mixed in with citrus (lemon, makrut lime) and salt. Ginger shows up on the second sniff along with malt and this too has a big Ben Nevis crossover going on. Gunpowder on the third sniff and then some sweet fruit begins to poke out as it sits (peach). Water brightens it up and pushes back the leafy notes; it does also emphasize the (savoury) gunpowder. Continue reading

Mortlach 21, 1990 (Signatory for Binny’s)


Sherry Cask Week comes to an end with this 21 yo Mortlach distilled in 1990 and bottled by Signatory for Binny’s in Chicago in 2012. Yes, I’ve sat on this bottle for almost 10 years, and no, I cannot begin to tell you why. Back in the day, Binny’s had one of the best cask exclusive programs in the US, if not the very best. Brett Pontoni and his team selected casks of a good quality and sold them for good prices without too much hoopla. Those days are long gone as no one seemingly is able to find good casks at good prices anymore and some don’t even seem able to reliably find acceptable casks at good prices. Hopefully the wheel will turn sometime soon. It’s sad to think of how much harder it is now for someone just entering the hobby to truly experience the full range of single malt whisky than it was a decade ago. Will the industry at some point price itself into a dead-end and have to retrench? Or will marketing win out? When you look at what is happening on social media with not just single malt whisky but also bourbon (and increasingly brandy), it seems hard to be hopeful that sanity will return anytime soon. The producers and marketers have whipped customers into a frenzy and all too many people seem excited to pay high prices for marginal bottles. Anyway, let’s go back to 2012 when this 21 yo sherry cask Mortlach cost $99. Continue reading

Glen Grant 24, 1995 (Signatory for the Nectar)


I began this week of reviews of Speyside whiskies on Monday with a Glenburgie distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012. On Wednesday I jumped back in time to review a Mannochmore distilled in 1978 and bottled in 1998. Let’s close the week with a Glen Grant distilled just a few years before the Glenburgie and only bottled in 2019.

This was bottled by Signatory for the Nectar in Belgium and, like the other two whiskies this week, it’s from a bourbon cask, in this case a bourbon barrel (Signatory have always been more forthcoming with cask information than Scott’s Selection, the bottlers of Wednesday’s Mannochmore, ever were). I’ve liked a lot of the bourbon cask Glen Grants I’ve had, including the official Glen Grant 18, which I reviewed earlier this year. Well, I don’t know if that’s listed specifically as being from bourbon casks but that seemed very obviously to be the case. And I did very much like the last one I reviewed that was unambiguously from a bourbon barrel—this 22 yo, 1992 from Single Malts of Scotland. So the odds are good. But the proof is in the glass. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Benrinnes 22, 1995 (Signatory for The Nectar)


On Monday I had a review of a Benrinnes 22, 1995. Here now is a review of another Benrinnes 22, 1995. Though Monday’s was bottled by the Paris store, La Maison du Whisky and today’s was bottled by Signatory, there is a pretty good chance that the source is the same. I don’t mean the distillery but Signatory themselves—as I noted on Monday, I’ve read before that they are the sources of LMDW’s casks (and also of some other EU stores and bottlers). At any rate this cask is just a few numbers away from Monday’s: that was hogshead 9063 and this is hogshead 9065. You may recall that I really liked Monday’s whisky. If this one is as good I will be very happy no matter what the nature of their sourcing may have been in reality. I believe this cask was bottled for the Nectar, a Belgian importer and wholesaler whose Daily Drams series is well-regarded (and from which I’ve previously reviewed a few releases). All signs point to a good outcome. Let’s see if that proves to be the case. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (Signatory)


Let us bring Ben Nevis week to a close. To recap, three sherry casks filled in 1991 and bottled by Signatory at the ages of 22, 24, and 26. I thought the 22 yo was a gem and then liked the 24 even more. Do I dare hope that the 26 will be better still? Of course, we know that age is no reliable predictor of quality—a few extra years can take a cask past its prime just as easily as they can add further depth. I am hoping for good things though as the colour of this sample suggests that this too was not an over-active sherry cask. Hopefully, that funky, fruity Ben Nevis character will be front and center here as well. Let’s see if that’s the case.

Ben Nevis 26, 1991 (57.3%; Signatory; sherry butt 2377; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: That familiar mix once again of musky citrus, powdered ginger, malt and yeast. On the second sniff the powdered ginger moves in the slightly rubbery direction of old-school medicine bottles. With time and air the sweeter fruit from the palate (peach nectar) joins the musky citrus. A few drops of water and there’s more malt and some very milky cocoa to go with all the rest. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (Signatory)


Here is the second of three Ben Nevis 1991s this week. Like Monday’s 22 yo, this 24 yo was bottled by Signatory from a sherry butt. I loved the 22 yo—will this one be as good? Let’s see.

Ben Nevis 24, 1991 (55.7%; Signatory; sherry butt 3834; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A very obvious relative of the 22 yo but here the roasted malt and nutty notes are on top of the citrus (which is brighter/more acidic: lime). On the second sniff the citrus is muskier (makrut lime peel) and here’s the powdered ginger too now. Continues in this vein. A few drops of water and there’s a big hit of citronella and then the fruit begins to get first sweeter and then savoury: peach nectar laced with lime juice and a bit of salt. Continue reading

Ben Nevis 22, 1991 (Signatory)


Here starts a week of reviews of sherry matured whiskies from Ben Nevis. All three of this week’s whiskies were distilled in 1991 and were bottled by Signatory. Signatory, by the way, have bottled 31 of the 42 releases of 1991 Ben Nevis listed on Whiskybase. They’ve all but cornered the market on that vintage. My reviews start with this 22 yo; on Wednesday I’ll have a review of a 24 yo; and Friday I’ll have a review of a 26 yo. Assuming the casks were of similar character/quality this may shed some minor light on the effects of a few more years of aging past the 20 year mark. All these samples, by the way, came to me from the excellent Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. Last week he reviewed all three and added on two others for good measure—a 23 yo and a 25 yo. So if you’re interested in that question of the incremental effects of aging you can find more specific data on his blog. I have avoided looking at his reviews so as to not be overly influenced by his silken tones. Continue reading

Port Ellen 24, 1982 (Signatory)


Let’s make it a full week of reviews of whiskies from closed distilleries. On Tuesday I had a review of a Brora. Here now is a whisky from Diageo’s other once a workhorse, now a cash cow distillery: Port Ellen. Like Brora, Port Ellen was slated for zombification last year. I’m not sure where any of that stands either. This one was distilled in 1982—the year before the distillery was closed—and bottled in 2006, when Port Ellens were available at prices that seemed high then but look like crazy screaming deals now.

Port Ellen 24, 1982 (43%; Signatory; hogshead 1145; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Lemon, cereals, bright carbolic peat (Dettol), cottonwool. Sweeter on the second sniff with some seashells and vanilla. The citrus gets muskier as it sits (more lime peel than lemon now) and there are hints (just hints) of faintly tropical notes interlaced with the increasingly acidic smoke. The vanilla gets creamier with a few drops of water. Continue reading

Brora 19, 1981 (Signatory)


Here’s another review of a whisky from a closed distillery, this time Scottish, not Japanese. Or at least this distillery was closed when this whisky was released, and indeed until a couple of years ago. Brora, as you will recall, was revived by Diageo—along with Port Ellen—a few years ago. When I visited Clynelish briefly in 2018 work was already in progress on the zombie Brora plant; I’m not sure where things stand now—do write in below if you know. God knows what the spirit from zombie Brora will be like but I’m sure Diageo needs its cash cows to produce more milk—they must be close to running out of casks they can charge $3000 per bottle for. Of course, it’s going to take a long time for the new spirit to get to the age of the whisky I’m reviewing today, leave alone the age of the bottles that command the high prices. This is a very young 19 yo by Brora standards—most of its whisky was bottled at higher ages well after the distillery close. Then again, Diagep knows as well as I do that there are a lot of people with a lot of money to burn who just want to have bottles with Brora labels in their cabinets. I am not among them but I can tell you what this one is like. Continue reading