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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Single Malt Report: Imperial 15 year old 1995 Signatory Vintage for Binny's

Time to do a Taste Off between a pair of 1995 Imperials.  Both were bottled by Signatory for individual retailers.  Before this pairing, I'd had only two Imperials (both Duncan Taylors) and found them to be solid B-ish-grade fruity Speysiders.  So I was looking forward to trying more.

It might be my imagination, but 1995 Imperials seem to suffer from "1997 Clynelish Disease".  Certain bloggers/experts/writers have noted that 1995 was a good vintage for Imperial, like 1997 was for Clynelish.  But, like 1997 Clynelish, that perceived higher quality may be due to availability and familiarity.  Per whiskybase, out of the 309 Imperial releases distilled between 1962 and 1998, 111 are from 1995 (or 36% from that year alone).  In fact, since 2010, more than two-thirds of the Imperials released were distilled in 1995 (106/158).  So what we're buying and drinking is almost always from the 1995 "vintage", thus that's what we're most familiar with.  So, BAM, I hope you like how I just knocked the f*** out of that Straw Man.

Anyway, lots of 1995 Imperials out there, about a third of which were bottled by Signatory.  This first one was bottled for Binny's in Chicago, though since it was bottled more than three years ago it's now sold out.

The one on the left today, the one on the right on Thursday
Distillery: Imperial
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Retailer: Binny's
Age: 15 years (Oct. 9, 1995 - July 5, 2011)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask #: 50314
Bottles: 219
Region: Speyside (Central)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.4%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
Sample from a swap with MAO, thanks MAO!, see his review here

Its color is light gold.  The nose feels a little tight.  At first there's some vague citrus, butter, and pencil shavings.  Once it's aired out, the nose picks up some more fresh fruit (maybe apricot and mango), more butter, and a hint of spice (cumin and pepper?).  There are also some smaller notes of orange peel, chlorine, brown sugar, and lemon cleaner.  The palate is tight as well.  And very hot.  There's some of the nose's fruit in with the butter.  Irish soda bread and more butter.  Tart lemon candy, caramel candy, cinnamon candy.  The finish has bread and butter, spice and ethyl heat, salt and malt.  Sorta plain.

WITH WATER (approx. 46%abv)
The nose gets brighter.  Apple and pear skins.  Lime and butter.  Hints of band-aids and orange pixy stix.  A tart fruit tart and other baked confections.  The palate is sweeter, pleasant like a good blend.  Roasted nuts and grains.  Some orange and peach.  It's still on the hot side of things, but at least it's pretty malty.  The finish is tart, toasty, and lightly grassy. There's a salted lemon in there too.

This is like a cask strength blend, inoffensive aside from being much too hot when neat.  It's also considerably better when reduced to Signatory's UCF series' 46%abv strength.  But while it's decent enough, it's also not much more than that.  In his review from the same exact bottle, My Annoying Opinions has some similar conclusions about the whisky, specifically regarding how closed and hot it was.  Again, this bottle has been sold out.  But if you have one in your stash and the whisky seems a bit off in its first pour, add a little water to your glass.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 81 (with water)