Signatory Glenlivet 2006 9-year-old

I’ll take the Glenlivet please. That’s not something you hear too often in whisky shops across Scotland, never mind from your humble Whisky Rover. Funnily enough the shop assistant whilst ringing through the charge commented on just how dull Glenlivet has become in the pursuit of global sales, or the tumbler brigade as I refer to it as. You know the type; would rather be seen standing with a dram than actually tasting and appreciating it. Certainly far from wise men or women, easily parted with their cash by some whisky spirit wolf in sheep's clothing.

Nevertheless, the sale was made and here I am yet again giving Glenlivet a chance to prove its worth. I’ve given up with the official range; its fraught with disappointment and whilst reasonably affordable, the experience is always lacking. The remaining glimmer of hope are the independent bottlers and a major source of all things is Signatory. Now the current owners of Edradour distillery, if you take the tour and venture up and out of the glen, you’ll be taken into an epic warehouse. This is home to the many of the Signatory casks and it almost feels like an A-Z of Scottish distilleries.

The Edradour distillery shop is host to a mind-blowing display of releases, where the top tier is closed distilleries with extended periods of maturation, or today’s distilleries that have waited for decades before being selected. Andrew and Brian Symington have an admirable back catalogue of casks and history shows they aren’t afraid to use them. It’s worth the drive up the treacherous A9 road just to pull over via Pitlochry, to go look in the Edradour shop. Plus, if you take the tour there’s an option to try before you buy, which is always a recipe for success.

The un-chillfiltered collection, which is what we have here today folks, is very much the entry level range before you step up into those decanter style bottles that are a pain to pour. Thankfully the un-chillfiltered range keeps things simple including the bottle shape. There are no rules governing which Scottish distilleries, casks or ages; instead its purely about being as natural as possible with a set strength of 46% volume.

This 9-year-old Glenlivet would set you back around £55 and I’m happy with that pricing strategy. There’s premium for a sherry butt with any whisky and you’re also paying to gain access to what is a raw Glenlivet rather than one that has been prodded and engineered by whatever master blender or member of their team, in the direction they see fit. Someone recently suggested to me that the best whiskies are those that are devoid of any master blender and if only distilleries would dispense with these characters. I felt it was an interesting point of view, as arguably every other stage of the distillation and production of whisky has been devalued and computerised. Why not just remove the human interference at the end?

Food for thought, certainly. Given my return to Speyside in April, I felt compelled to give Glenlivet another chance and having enjoyed the refined nature of the Glenfiddich 1995 20-year-old that was also from a first fill sherry butt (review incoming), it seemed only right that the other regional behemoth was reviewed before departure. This Glenlivet was distilled on 17th October 2006 and placed into a 1st fill sherry butt (cask number 901043) before being bottled on 8th September 2016, at 46% strength. Checking the admirable resource that is Whisky Base, Signatory bottled 2 other sister casks (casks 901041, 901042), both sherry butts, around the same time as this bottling. So chances are given the high outturns from these butts you'll be able to track one of these down quite easily. That is if you actually are brave enough to invite a Glenlivet into your home. 

Colour: Highland toffee
Nose: a light dusting of tobacco, toffee, oranges, freshly baked shortbread, Banoffee pie. Water is really beneficial, amplifying these characteristics especially the tobacco.   
Taste: a burst of sugary sweetness and milk chocolate, a little spice on the fringes with black pepper and chilli heat. A hint of ginger with brown sugar moving into butterscotch.  

Overall: far from a dominating sherry butt, there's an enjoyable interplay present between the Glenlivet spirit and its host. Well, I quite enjoyed that aspect, and it's a very easy drinking Glenlivet with a little character but not overly so in all honesty. Much better than the bruising official sherry bottlings we've seen from say Bowmore. A solid purchase but nothing more.  

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