Signatory is an independent bottler that specializes in single malt whisky. Started in the 1980s by the Symington brothers, the company built its own bottling plant in Edinburgh a few years later.
Today, Signatory has a vast warehouse in which it ages precious casks, meticulously selected, from all over Scotland. One of the great things about Signatory is the fact that it tends to bottle individual casks, or sometimes two casks, which are married together. I really appreciate the individual character of a great many offerings I’ve tried over the years.
Currently, three primary collections are offered: 86 Proof, Cask Strength, and Unfiltered. The latter category reminds me of the old Blackadder independent bottlings from a few years’ back. I still have a few Blackadders in my collection at home, and I’m treasuring them since they are becoming rare as hen’s teeth these days.
Be this as it may, I always tend to favor the Cask Strength collection bottlings from Signatory. The buyer gets more for his money with those, and the quality tends to be fairly high. Plus, the Cask Strength oval bottles are really cool looking. (My tasting notes below will review a unique Cask Strength bottling of Ledaig.)
2004 10 Year Old Ledaig really hit the bull’s eye. Not sure what made them so amazing, but they are fetching a pretty ha’penny in auctions these days (upwards of twice what they sold for a year ago). I’ve never tasted one, but I would LOVE to get my hands on a dram from a bottle of 2004 10 Year Old Ledaig.
Truth be told, I’ve drooled over reviews online whilst sipping from my current bottle of Ledaig Ten Year Old Cask Strength from Signatory. This bottle is quite good, so it’s tantalizing to imagine a cut above such deliciousness.
I strongly suspect that the difference lies in the quality of sherry butts used, but who knows? Once in a while, a distillery, or a bottler, lays hands on a particularly favorable batch of casks from faraway sunny lands. The end result can be downright magickal.
Ledaig, on the whole, has really come into its own lately, resurrected from the ashes of pseudo-mediocrity, “like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal,” to quote a memorable line from A Clockwork Orange, one of my favorite novels.
Yes, rise to the occasion, it did – and now the phoenix of this distillery has flown the coop, to make history, albeit with a daub of ashy peat on its wings. Bravo, to all you droogs over at Ledaig, as well as those bright and risen angels at Signatory, for making the most of what has been quietly aging in first fill sherry butts!
As with Talisker, the distillery under discussion in this article presents a welcome compliment to the “ultra-violent” (heavily peated) offerings from Islay. Believe it or not, I can recall being downright revolted by a dram of Ye Olde Ledaig back a fair stretch of years ago. Hard to believe. My how times change.
That’s one of the things I really like about the whisky industry: yesterday’s lackluster puddle water can become today’s Elisir d’Amore. Of course, for all intents and purposes, it’s usually the other way ’round: ancient broths just keep getting better and better and better.
Tasting Notes: Ledaig 10 Year Old Signatory Vintage
Vital Stats: Distilled 2005, First Fill Sherry Butt, 576 Bottles, 54.6% ABV
Nose: Wow, this one has quite the peppery-wood scent for a ten year old. A little like a Talisker 10-Year-Old, but at cask strength. Wet sand and sea shells; golden raisins; figs; beach bonfire smoke. There’s also a hint of anise and star fruit after fifteen minutes in the glass. I would say this whisky is well past the “tequila stage.” I’ve had younger Ledaigs that could almost pass for mezcal.
Palate: Creamy peat rolls down the back of the tongue with no significant “burn” considering the nearly 55% ABV. Sipping on this one exudes a visceral satisfaction that reminds me of sitting down to a bowl of steel cut Scottish oatmeal with raisins and sprinkle of brown sugar on top. Also bacon-wrapped dates, butter brickle ice cream, tar, fresh kelp, and, finally, a healthy dose of driftwood bonfire smoke. Yes, this is mouth-coating in the pleasantest of ways. I’m impressed that it drinks fairly smooth at cask strength, particularly after time in one’s glass.
A little water changes the balance considerably on the nose. I’m no longer reminded of a Talisker. Dare I say, now the dram is nearly Ardbegian in terms of its deep, resonant, tar-rich satisfaction? Cigar wrapper, with mellow smoke and less fruit. Water teases the palate to become sweeter, which is odd considering the nose is actually less sweet when one’s glass is irrigated, ever so slightly. Toffee and walnuts now, with prunes, dates . . . but, alas, no more bacon.
The finish is medium in length; a pleasant industrial residue evokes creosote, aged wood, and sea spray on ferry docks of Puget Sound. With water, the finish is short with sea salt, and a puff of smoke that seems cleaner, now, less “bonfire-esque.”
Okay, so this Ledaig 10-Year-Old Signatory Vintage is not a mind-bending sherry-laced smoke bomb, like quite a few of its older brothers from 2004 in the Signatory Vintage line, but the big oval bottle is a good deal at around $80.
Speaking of which . . . I really do love these carafe-like Signatory Vintage bottles. After the whisky runs dry, they are so nice to use for all sorts of tasks around the house, such as filtered table water at parties. The wide mouth and flanged lips, together with an over-sized “ergonomic” cork stop, and a short narrow neck, help to make the bottle worth keeping, or even giving as a gift with a bow on top, and some nice vatted whisky inside from your own private stash!
FINAL SCORE: 89/100
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Kirk discovered the brilliance of Scottish whisky in 1987 while vacationing in Edinburgh. Over the course of three and a half decades that followed, he's built upon a knowledge of distilleries and the industry, as well as world whisky. Kirk prides himself on speaking honestly while avoiding the usual flattery...