[Review] Imperial 19 1976 Signatory Vintage

Despite a relatively small sample size, Imperial has become one of my very favourite Speyside distilleries. It delivers the tropical and waxy goods regularly, and despite closing in 1998 it doesn’t (yet) have the same dead-distillery premium on it as many of the bigger names. This Signatory bottling from 1976 will be the oldest vintage Imperial I’ve ever tried.

  • 43% ABV
  • Distilled October 8th 1976, bottled in May 1996
  • Single cask #7561
  • 690 bottles

Colour: Straw.

Nose: Sweet and fatty. Creamy tropical notes of coconut cream, frozen pineapple chunks, and some custardy key lime pie. Lots of paraffin wax, vanilla poached pears, rose petals, and something like sandalwood. Effervescent white wine. A slightly grimy and industrial edge. Earthy-herbal characteristics – thyme + tarragon compound butter, turmeric, and whole-grain mustard. Wait, is this peated?

Palate: Light texture. It *is* peated! Pineapple gummy bears, Canada Dry ginger ale, pancetta fat, and cool smoke on the arrival. A flash of honey-glazed sweet malt. Mild peat smoke on the development, with pine boughs, decaying logs, and a strong mineral note. Slate quarry and smashed river rocks. Extra-dark chocolate. There’s almost a pickled character – it has this attractive briny-sour-fruity snap to it.

Finish: Medium-short, but with long-lasting earthy smoke. Burning grass, charred marshmallow, lime zest, wet hay, mossy logs. Black pepper bloomed in olive oil. Petrichor. Kimchi???

Thoughts:What a whisky. I’ve never had a peated Imperial before – then again, I’ve never had an Imperial distilled this far back into the 70s before either. The cool mineral peat character works really well with the classic Imperial paraffin and tropical fruits. It’s reminiscent of some older Bowmores, or even some of those Clynelish/Caol Ila blends from Compass Box. Uniquely, though, this one has that effervescent and pickled character, combined with a coconut/pork fattiness, which makes it so interesting to drink. This whisky developed in the glass dramatically over the course of the hour or so that I spent with it. To me, that’s the sign of a great whisky.

Final Score: 89/100

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