Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

A deep dive in all the Signatory 100 proof bottlings (2)

We continue our travel down the lane of the new series by Signatory Vintage, the 100 proof expressions. When visiting my local retailer last week, he told me that the few bottles that he managed to get sold as if they were free giveaways. This makes me conclude Signatory really hit a sweet spot with whisky enthusiasts and a more entry level consumer. In my previous post on Friday we already saw that quality was decent enough, with high flying peaters and quirky examples too (the Ben Nevis!). 

Today we continue with a few distilleries that are reliable choices for any independent bottler. The lineup starts with the youngest vintage first.

Glenrothes 2015, 9 years old, bottled at 57,1 % abv

Makeup: Matured in First Fill oloroso sherry butts. The name on the label is written as Glen Rothes, not Glenrothes.

General impressions:  Hmm. Very much on sour milk, creamy notes. Not a preferred style of mine. We give it some time and then the nuttiness comes out. Hazelnut. The taste is dry and a little sulphury. No, don't think this is the best effort in this series.

Conclusion: Sloppy entry in this series. I expect much more from Glenrothes. And Signatory. I am sure there is an audience for this rather dirty sherried style.

Score: 77 points

Blair Athol 2014, 9 years old, bottled at 57,1 % abv

Makeup: Matured in First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butts, producing 2680 bottles. This is edition number 3, I can see in Whiskybase there is also an edition number 9 registered. Interestingly enough, a bottle that is getting flipped.

General impressions: If the colour is any indication, the casks were very loud. Deep golden brown. Any whisky producers dream colour, me thinks. Stick the nose in carefully, because the alcohol makes it presence known. But when you are past that, there is this delicious shoe polish and furniture wax that fills the nose. When you try, you can also discover dark red fruits, forest fruit tea from blackcurrant and berries, all well composed. Blair Athol is one of my favourite whisky’s to drink sherried, this bottle yet another example of that. The taste is full on wood and cigar leaves and my heart is already crying that I did not get a bottle (yet). Strong, lots of backbone, but at the same time there is still whisky underneath all this sherry power.

Conclusion: How on earth does Signatory still have this A-quality sherry casks? Impressive. This Blair Athol could be a future classic, when stowed away for 20 years in a dark cellar. Of the non-peated expressions, this is hands down the best offering. Beats the Glenrothes to a pulp, really.

Score: 88 points

Glentauchers 2012, 11 years old, bottled at 57,1 % abv

Makeup: Matured in First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butts.

General impressions: Glentauchers is a trustworthy single malt. Never disappoints, also never really stuns me. Good chameleon spirit, so let us see how it plays with the sherry. Classic "whisky" nose, I am reminded of Ballentine's Scotch that my brother used to drink in the 90s. Trying to describe it better I would say crushed vanilla cookie crumbles, wood notes, empty rum casks and creamy mocha. Fruity after a while, with some red cherry. The taste is equally fascinating. I remember making the mistake to nick a chocolate from a dish as a child, only to find out it was filled with bittersweet liquor. Tongue coating and nicely bitter. Hints of homemade marmalade, strawberry and cherry in particular.

Conclusion: Beautiful Speyside whisky. I neglected Glentauchers the last few years for being too generic. With these excellent sherry casks it is a different story. Still a bit one-dimensional but very good in this straightforwardness.
Score: 87 points

Ardmore 2010, 13 years old, bottled at 57,1 % abv

Makeup: Matured in First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butts, producing 2804 bottles.

General impressions: Ardmore has a lot of fans these days. The lightly peated Highland single malt is indeed a very particular whisky (if not put into ex-Islay casks). Let's see how the battle with the sherry casks ended for this last sample we tried in the 100 proof series. A very minty start, and then a whole pine forest, but more pinecone than the needles. The sherry introduces dried black plum and that continues on the taste buds. The sweet attack on the tip of the tongue took me by surprise, but the general taste quickly leans toward the ashy peat for which we love Ardmore.

Conclusion: Typically idiosyncratic Ardmore. Less enticing than other samples but up there with the best. Might be the ashy runoff. Only proves once more that the 100 proofs Signatory is assembled from A-quality sherry casks, that leaves room for the integrity of the distillery spirit. Ardmore is very much present among the sherry influences. Wonderful.

Score: 86 points

GENERAL AFTERTHOUGHT : A new standard in pricing? I certainly hope so. The peated session we did last week proved I have been overpaying for quite some whisky in recent years. I cannot really blame anybody for that, it was the market. But we do need, and as whisky enthusiasts should demand, normalization of prices. We can start by choosing wisely. Reward honesty, by bottlers, by retailers, and everyone else you meet on the way to your couch or a friends meeting to enjoy a few good drams.

Disclaimer: from a generous bottle share by A.S. who provided all expressions.

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