Signatory's Classic Single Malts

12/17/13 -

Whisky is more popular than ever.  In the United States the surge has been led by ultra-aged Bourbons and the ever-expanding landscape of small, local-production distilleries, but we haven’t forgotten about Scotch.  Single Malt Scotch is made entirely from barley, and distilled in pot stills that produce much less spirit than the industrial stills used to make the majority of the world’s spirits.  The shape of the still, the location of the distillery, and the type of barrel selected are the three factors that influence the taste of the whisky. 

Many of these distilleries are located in Scotland’s rural country sides – from the rolling hills and peaks of the Highlands to the sea-sprayed Islands along Scotland’s coasts.  There are now about 100 active distilleries, but you wouldn’t know it by many bar lists or at retail shelves.  One sees the same dozen or so bottles (all quite good) in almost every place: Macallan, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, etc.  But wouldn’t it be interesting to try some of Scotland’s more esoteric offerings?  Many of these distilleries are fiercely valued for their strong individual character by Scotch blenders.  The fact is that we don’t see many of these smaller producers because they are owned by alcohol/fashion conglomerates such as Pernod-Ricard, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, Diageo, etc.  It’s in their best interest to promote one or two Single Malts in their stable and to use the rest in blended whiskies, which are bigger sellers than the Single Malts.  The chances of Diageo marketing the fantastic, but small, Mortlach, Linkwood, or Glen Elgin distilleries are slim when they already represent Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Lagavulin, Oban, Talisker, Caol Ila, and many more in the United States.

Fortunately, there are many independent bottlers who have stepped in to provide us with fantastic whiskies not often seen in the states.  These companies buy barrels from distilleries and brokers that they either age or release immediately.  Sometimes the bottling will be drawn from just a single barrel, with a production of under 500 bottles.   Scotch fans chase down bottles from specific barrels, and collectors compare across many variables.  There are at least a dozen quality independent bottlers these days, but we have had superior experiences with Signatory.  Signatory always bottles single casks, and never adds caramel coloring.  Some of the whiskies are bottled at cask strength, and many are un-filtered.  We love sourcing whiskies from distilleries rarely found in the States, and all of these would make great gifts for the whisky lover who thinks that they’ve tried them all!  JR

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