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Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection

Our thanks once again to our Patreon supporters who have enabled this piece with their monthly support. Due to this merry band of MALT enthusiasts we’ve been able to bring you the Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2019 and that poor Balvenie 12-year-old single cask release.

For this month, we’re bringing you not 1, but 3 whiskies from Signatory as part of their Un-chillfiltered Collection. After my recent Cadenhead’s article that raised the question of what value in whisky really is? We wanted to bring you a clutch of 2019 bottlings from Signatory and their value-based range.

All of these bottlings are 46% strength, naturally presented and depending on where you shop should be under £40 each. Given these are only just out, hopefully, if something captures your interest, you can track down a bottle or use 1 of the commission links we’ve provided. You’ll know that these never affect our opinion and I’m always amazed that someone out there did purchase the Jura 7 Wood on the basis of our review.

I’d love to say there’s some methodology to our selections but there isn’t. The chance to try a Ben Nevis is always welcome and Miltonduff can be a quality whisky at a young age. As for the Strathisla, well, when was the last time we reviewed a whisky from Speyside’s 2nd prettiest distillery? For all those picturesque looks, it does produce a fairly mundane and forgettable whisky.

Signatory, of course, have been a staple source of good quality independent releases without any thrills. Notorious for their metal tubes that require a crowbar to open (sadly these releases today are cardboard tubes), and in the case of the cask strength range, then trying to pour a consistent measure from that awkward neck. These all add up to part of the appeal with Signatory. Until their release series of anniversary releases, they’ve avoided the bling and just given us good whiskies at a decent price. An approach that should be welcomed. So, buckle up and let’s see what awaits us…

Signatory Ben Nevis 9 Year Old 2010 – review

From cask 129, which was a single refill butt this will cost £38.95 via Master of Malt, or £40.95 from the Whisky Exchange.

Colour: amazingly very little colour albeit a slight haze.

On the nose: spent tobacco, apples, spat out orange pips and honeycomb. It is malty and resinous with gorse, limescale and a defunct pineapple. Memories of Lucozade and that Daley Thompson advert are revived, playground sherbet over indulgence, a white tea and sage. Adding water reveals wine gums and hints of tropical fruits that just fail to deliver.

In the mouth: most perculiar with a light stroke from the cask and plenty of spirit. There’s figs, apples and green mango with honeysuckle. Tangerines and almonds follow with a rusty nature on the finish and a degree of soot. Water showcases more rounded fruits, white pepper and white chocolate.

Score: 6/10

Signatory Miltonduff 9 Year Old 2009 – review

From 2 bourbon barrels (701721 & 701724) this release is £37.95 from Master of Malt, or £39.45 via the Whisky Exchange.

Colour: light gold.

On the nose: a gentle honey, very floral with barley sweets and a sugary nature. Lemons, lychees, unripe peaches and margarine. Also a creamy vanilla and clementines. Time reveals cinnamon and caramel and water delicate fruits.

In the mouth: feels a touch higher in strength, apple strudel, icing sugar and a noticeable sharpness. Digestives, white chocolate and more vanilla. Pears, nougat follow and the realisation that water offers no tangible benefit.

Score: 4/10

Signatory Strathisla 10 Year Old 2008 – review

From ex-bourbon barrels 800117 & 800118, this Strathisla bottling is £39.95 from Master of Malt, or via the Whisky Exchange for £41.25.

Colour: pebbledash.

On the nose: light and it must be said a touch spirit based. Familiar notes of apples and lemons are followed by jasmine and biscotti. Jacob’s crackers, dried orange, pineapple cubes (from a sweetie shop), crushed digestives and apricot. With water talcum powder, flint and pears come through.

In the mouth: Kiwi fruit, olives and vanilla cream. A sweet pastry dough, green apples and green mango move us into palm sugar. Water has a real tangible effect delivering more fruit in a joyous transformation.

Score: 5/10

Conclusions

First time around, I pegged the Ben Nevis a much lower score. Then, I started returning over the course of a few days and it grew a certain je ne sais quoi. The sherry influence is subtle almost miniscule and this lets the distillate step into the breach.

In fact you could make a strong case for saying this is the most un-sherried whisky of 2019.

What we have isn’t a classic vintage like 1996 and it doesn’t quite stack up on the palate. However, there’s a charm here and the sense of something different; rugged and truly Highlander in liquid form. I’m enjoying it more than expected.

The Miltonduff was the most anticipated but ultimately the most disapointing. The Strathisla is a solid whisky and much better than the staple official release. A good starter dram, or easy drinker; it showcases the benefit that water can bring when added in the right quantity. A widespread trio from Signatory, which showcases the hit and miss nature of the range.

CategoriesSingle Malt
Jason
Jason

JJ is based in Scotland, which means he’s able to reach out and enjoy a wealth of distillery trips and whiskies. Although, it’s more than likely you’ll find him in the Edinburgh Cadenhead's shop or in front of a laptop.

  1. Avatar
    Alex says:

    I had just been perusing online to see what indie bottlings were out there for me to explore in 2020 and had spotted these, so was happy to see this review. Never had a whisky from any of these distilleries, but looks like a Ben Nevis might be a solid buy. As usual, nice work!

  2. Avatar
    Seb says:

    Great read, and have been delving back through some of your previous indie reviews. Sadly doesn’t give me much incentive to buy. From what I’m reading and seeing online at the pricier higher ages or ‘secret’ but obvious distillery offerings there seems to be value for money. With the younger ages there seem to be a lot of refill casks luring you in with limited bottle numbers and un chillfiltered un coloured etc etc. The reality seems to be massively hit or miss, the hits being about average and maybe seem better than they are because of all the misses! Last night at a whisky bar with a friend we tried a carn mor 8 Loch Lomond peated. It was absolutely terrible. Horrible smell of cheap tequila on the nose. Tiny wisps of smoke in the mouth. Retailing online at £40. If someone offered me that at the their home I’d politely lie and say I’m not a whisky fan can I please have a gin and tonic. My friend agreed. Even the barman said it would make a great whisky margarita! We also tried a kilkerran 12. What a fantastic whisky! Retailing around £36. Have bought it already. Win to the OBs again on quality and value for money. Like a dog with a bone I think my next project in the new year will be to go to a few whisky shows (I’ve not yet been to any) and really sample as many indies as possible with the benefit of being able to question the people behind them at the same time.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Seb.

      Yes, it is a minefield currently. So hit and miss. Many casks are being bottled due to a buoyant market. In previous times, these would not have been deemed good enough.

      The SMWS have some worthwhile younger options, but also some really disappointing offerings. They are not alone. We’ll keep on searching and exploring for you.

      Cheers, Jason.

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