Signatory Dufftown 1984 (Aged 26 years)
Review: Signatory Dufftown 1984 (Aged 26 years) 95.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on April 17, 2011
The Signatory Company was founded in 1988. It is family owned and managed, being one of only three truly independent bottlers in Scotland. (Signatory likes to draw a distinction between the independent companies who bottle their own products, and the independent companies whose products are bottled under contract.) The other fully independent bottlers are: Gordon & MacPhail and Wm. Cadenhead.
The Signatory name was derived from the initial intention of the Company to find someone famous to sign the labels for the bottles produced from their single casks. Despite these good intentions, the first cask purchased (a 1968 Glenlivet), was sold long before they could find such a famous person. (And as far as I know no such famous persons have yet been found.) Until April 1992, when the company moved to their current premises in Newhaven (Edinburgh), they operated from a bonded warehouse in Leith. In April 1992, as the company began to grow, they moved to larger premises, and they were granted a license to bottle their own products on site. They have set-up a small line bottling system, primarily geared towards the bottling of single cask whiskies.
Although the actual bottling of the whisky is semi-automated, their emphasis is very much on running a hands-on operation, with hand labeling and hand packing of products. To add to the exclusivity of their bottles, they often declare the cask number, date of distillation, and date of bottling on their labels. In addition, each bottle is often individually hand numbered.
It is the Company’s aim, as an independent bottler to offer a wide range of distinct whiskies; some of which are from distilleries which do not offer their own bottlings, and some of which that are offered at different ages and/or strengths from those offered as distillery bottlings. The majority of Signatory’s bottlings are the product of single casks, with the whisky enthusiast being given the opportunity to sample the subtle differences which occur with each different cask.
(Incidentally, Signatory owns the smallest distillery from Scotland, Edradour.)
Dufftown is the largest distillery belonging to Diageo. The whisky from this distillery is primarily intended for blend. Bell’s, Islander, Dewar’s White Label, and of course Johnnie Walker all require Dufftown Whisky as part of their construction.
In the Bottle 4/5
I really like the Signatory bottle presentation pictured to the right. It has all the elements which I love, a special decanter style bottle and a nice metal display canister full of information important to the consumer. The bottle and canister declare the cask number, date of distillation, the date of bottling, and the type of cask used for maturation which in this case is a refill sherry cask. In addition each bottle is individually hand numbered.
My Bottle is labeled:
Aged 26 years
Distilled on 09/01/1984
Bottled on 14/04/2010
Matured in a refill Sherry Cask
Cask No. 79
Bottle No: 61/311
The presentation is all that I could hope for, yet I have not scored it a perfect 5/5. This is because of a quirk between the bottle and the cork. You see the entrance to the bottle is not beveled, which causes the cork to be scraped by the sharp corner of the spout every time the cork is inserted. This means I have to clean cork shavings from the bottle opening every time I pour a new dram. If anyone from Signatory is reading this, please fix this problem.
In the Glass 9.5/10
I smell a delightful alpine forest rising from the glass as the whisky is poured. Punky woody notes take shape with spongy moss, willow thicket, and floral notes abounding. Rich vanilla scents follow accented by a wonderful backdrop of honeycomb and oak. Caramel builds in the glass coexisting very nicely with a developing marzipan. Even though this whisky stems from a well aged barrel and arrives at a full 55 % alcohol strength, the whisky smells rich but not astringent. This has quickly become one of my favourite whiskies to nose.
In the Mouth 58/60
The initial delivery of the whisky into my mouth provides an intense wave of woody evergreens enveloped by honey and vanilla.There is a peppery bite that heats up the tongue and is quickly followed by a chewy, but subdued sherry smoke which is filled with natural flavours of heather and willow. When you chew through this smoke, more honeycomb sweetness kicks in with rich caramelized butterscotch and toffee all of which is underlain with marzipan.
The whisky continues to be hot in the mouth with spices popping in and out such as ginger, nutmeg, hints of cloves and even a touch of cinnamon. Apricots and peaches add weight to the mouthfeel of the whisky, and amidst all of this flavour is an underlying punky woody oak which is firmly imprinted into the flavour.
This is truly a tremendous whisky!
In the Throat 14.5/15
At full strength, the whisky still has the ability to delight me in the finish. The exit is softer than one would expect (at 55 % abv.) with caramel, honeycomb, marzipan, and punky oak pushing their way through to the finish where suddenly the spices reach up and grab your tonsils letting you know that a cask strength bombshell of a whisky has just slid down your throat.
The Afterburn 9.5/10
I found this whisky at a small out-of-the-way shop in Calgary where the staff allowed me to sample numerous spirits that were aged from 25 years all the way to 58 years. Most of the spirits I sampled were Signatory bottlings, and after this sampling spree, I purchased two of the 26-year-old Dufftown Signatory Whiskies.
As you can see from my photo above, I am almost finished the first bottle and will be faced with a very difficult choice in the coming months. Should I save the second bottle, or should I indulge myself now and hope that fortune will bring me another superior bottling such as this in the days ahead. The choice is difficult as this is truly one of the very best whiskies I have tasted thus far.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)