Signatory session take two with cigars!

Quick before oxidation did too much damage, I wanted to share with the BMC lads a sampling from my earlier Signatory session.

However as whisky gremlins (aka friends and I) got into the Edradour and the Bunnahabhain too, it was clear augmentation would be needed to have sufficient for my sipping companions as we puffed on our cigars, post initial tasting. With this group, tasting is not the end, merely the selection process to settle down to savour a further dram or two with a cigar, some nibbles and convivial conversation.

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So what did I do? First began with what our merry malt men had to say about the whiskies…

We kicked off with the Speyside – Glenburgie 18 year (13 June 1995 / 20 Feb 2014) Cask No 6451, 391 bottles 46%.

  • Nose – Flowers, perfume, summer meadow
  • Palate – Surprisingly robust
  • Finish – Spice
  • Water – Adds ‘wood’ brought out vanilla and moss
  • Overall – Light bright and sprightly

Then followed up with the Islay – Bunnahabhain 26 years (6 June 1988 / 7 Aug 2014) Cask No 1874, 175 bottles 48.6%.

  • Nose – Varnish, lots of esters, pineapple, a flick of mint?
  • Palate – Smooth, a bit oily, tart granny apples…
  • Finish – Sits… very dry, black pepper
  • Water – Spicier, less acidic, brings out the peppers and even a medicinal quality on the nose. Then was that gasoline??
  • Overall – One commented the whisky made his lips numb! Certainly not a favourite (and yet the bottle was empty by the end of the evening… Oh the sacrifices these gentlemen will make!)

Closing our Signatory trio in the Highland‘s with the Edradour 10 year (2 Nov 2004/26 Mar 2015) Cask No 406, Bottle 440 46%

  • Nose – Very chocolaty, vanilla, prunes, fig newton, varnish, rum raisin
  • Palate – Very smooth, little pepper, lime?
  • Finish – Not long but rather pleasant
  • Water – Softens, mellows it out and makes it even sweeter
  • Overall – The kind of whisky to sip in a comfy chair, very palatable, well balanced and well rounded

Having tried all three before, I found the Edradour stood up best after being opened. Alas the Glenburgie had clearly lost some of its earlier nuances. And the Bunnahabhain? Let’s just say it is not one to sit in a bottle. The most expensive of the trio was also the most disappointing.

But what to sip with our cigars?

One already has clear sherry preferences. For him, he likes his whiskies robust and full of flavour. Aberlour just so happens to be a personal favourite, so it was only natural to introduce him to the gorgeous A’bunadh Batch 35.

For another, we earlier spoke of enjoying a good Irish dram – when in the mood for something a little simpler and sociable. He’d sampled Tyrconnel before – even has a bottle at home – however had yet to try the Madeira finish.

Now, another member knows his stuff and nothing less than a complex, nuanced and very special dram will do! I knew what remained in my whisky cabinet would not meet such standards. Closest was a few remaining rare Japanese whiskies yet only a single dram left – clearly insufficient to support a good cigar. So the Signatory trio would simply have to do.

And the last? I still haven’t pegged his preference beyond a desire to try something ‘different’. So added an unpeated Paul John Classic into the mix.

My experience pairing with the cigar? I initially thought the Edradour with its rich sherry notes would pair best with my robusto. Imagine my surprise to discover the delicate Glenburgie held its own.

Slainthe!

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Signatory’s Glenburgie 18 year (1995) 46%

As we have already tried many of the ‘known’ and readily accessible distilleries, it is always a treat to add a less readily accessible distillery to our list!

So back in 2014, I proudly picked up a bottle of Glenburgie from the prodigious Speyside region. At the time, we never tried anything from this distillery, primarily as it is used in blends like Ballentine’s with no “official” distiller editions. I looked forward to showing off something ‘different’ when it came around to my turn to host!

The irony is by the time we cracked open the bottle in February 2016, it was no longer the ‘1st’ Glenburgie to cross my palate:

So much for bringing a little novelty to our tastings!!

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As always, our blind whisky tasting approach reigns supreme… so how did this one fare?

Signatory Vintage – Glenburgie 1995 46%

  • Colour – Light straw
  • Nose – Bright, fresh, clean fruit, sweet, hint of coconut, toffee, oily, no peat or was there a whiff? Fresh grass, much more fruit than spice or flower, lovely yet quite linear, no major surprises
  • Palate – Initially much sharper, sour and very different than we expected from the nose, sweet, spice and bitter, a tingling on the tongue, mild citrus. The bitter gives it character – in a good way. Has a very good palate, sits on the tongue and is well rounded.
  • Finish – Bitter – some initially thought it short, others found its like a punch that you still feel after some time topped with a  dash of cherry cough syrup
  • Water – Opens it up, makes it even more approachable, however loses the light coconut nose, though the syrupy element stays
  • Speculation – Immediately thought likely an independent bottler – possibly Gordon & MacPhail. Single Cask? Could it be a Highland Speyside? Perhaps younger? Speculation ran riff!
  • Overall – Approachable, one of those books that is easy to read, quite pleasant. For some this was the favourite of the evening.
The reveal was a surprise – both as it was older than most thought and we relatively recently sampled the G&MP 15 year Glenburgie. For comparison, I pulled out a Ballantine’s 17 year set which featured blends that ‘celebrate’ the characters of the different component single malts such as Glenburgie.
This Speyside may mostly go into blends however it is worth enjoying in both its independent bottler Signatory and G&MP avatars!

Here are the only details available about this Signatory Vintage:

Aged 18 years, distilled on 13 June 1995 and bottled on 20 Feb 2014. Matured in the Highland. Cask No 6451 with an outturn of only 391 bottles. No chill filtration, natural colour.

A bit of trivia I find interesting is Glenburgie was run for a time in the early 20th century by a woman – Margaret Nichol – reputed to be the first female manager of any whisky distillery.

Up next in our Signatory Session:

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Signatory session with Glenburgie, Bunnahabhain + Edradour

Most single malts tell you surprisingly little about exactly when they began their life.

Sure – the bottle says 10 year but what that really means is the youngest whisky in that bottle in front you was matured for 10 years.

As for the year it was bottled? Look closely… many do not tell you this.

The key with most age statement whiskies is carefully playing around with stock to produce a consistent flavour profile. Which means more mixing and blending between casks than you might imagine to achieve that distinctive taste you have come to call a familiar friend.

However if you really want to explore the nuances of a ‘pure’ single malt, then a single distillation in a single cask preferably at cask strength is the way to go.

And no one does that better than some terrific independent bottlers who keep an eagle eye (or acute nose and taste buds) out for something truly special.

This is the territory that tells you when that whisky hit the cask, which cask and even how many bottles exist… perhaps your bottle even has its own number.

Over the years we’ve had some fabulous Gordon & MacPhail offerings, a few Douglas Laing & Co, however less from Signatory.

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So for three years, I’ve slowly acquired three distinctly different whiskies – two examples of Signatory’s independent bottlings and one from their own wee distillery – Edradour, each from a different region in Scotland.

What pray tell did I manage to track down?

It seemed a fitting trio to fete the beginning our fifth year of whisky tastings as a dedicated group in Mumbai.

Anyone have a favourite independent bottler? Or tried a particularly interesting Signatory bottle?

Slainthe!

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