Glenmorangie's 'signet' - their logo - is inspired by the lower panel of the 9th Century 'Hilton of Cadboll Stone' a pict cross-slab originally located on the east coast of Easter Ross. The signet section of the stone is believed to symbolise the Pictish belief in the interconnectivity of earth, fire and water. Glenmorangie’s 'Signet' whisky, released in 2011 is designed to highlight their take on the engraving – ‘refined complexity’.
Signet is a marriage of around 80% older Glenmorangie stock (30-35 year old I've read) with an approximately 20% much younger (10 year old I've read) whisky from a recipe with uses roasted 'chocolate malt' barely. Whilst I've seen countless reviews listing 'chocolate' as a discernible flavour, the actual 'chocolate' here refers to the roasting process which transforms the colour of the barley from light gold through to somewhere between Cadbury's Dairy Milk and Bournville. I.E. fairly dark. The roasting process also brings out deeper nuttier flavours in the malts, highlighting one of their common usages - creating rich, dark ales like porters and stouts.
Chocolate malt barley is a pretty unusual ingredient to feature in most mash bills. In fact, Signet is the only Scotch whisky using the barley as far as I know. Looking further afield you will find other examples, particularly in American whiskeys (check out Westland) and ryes.
It would be wrong to complete a review of Signet without spending a short amount of time praising the presentation of this whisky. The bottle is simply stunning and is topped by an incredibly weighty metal-clad stopper. The glass has a black-smoked effect which becomes increasingly transparent the lower down the bottle you look giving a real sense of transition through dark rich colour tones. Glenmorangie’s logo signet - is gold printed onto the bottle, and given its own ceramic tile on the box itself. It’s all rather lovely. Anyhow, fancy packaging aside, let's take a look what's inside...
Nose: Polished malts and an instant tang of orange peels. In fact, straight in to the glass this seems like rather a citrus-fest with both lemon meringue and key lime pies fighting for your attention. A little time spent relaxing in the glass and the deeper notes start to come through in the form of sweet and sticky liquorice and a real sense of charring or toastiness. Dusty polish and a rubbery aromas occasionally drift in and out in what is an seemingly ever-changing affair. Exciting stuff.
Taste: An oily and yet at the same time silky mouthfeel. Deep malts – this is much less sweet than the nose. Sharpness, and orange peels again. Real big kick of spent coffee grounds. Char again, this time nutty, specifically hazelnut. Salted caramel certainly there and providing a wonderful sweet and yet umami contradiction.
Finish: Medium length and rather wood heavy. Ginger spices coming through. Tannic bitterness from the wood really leaves that dying mouthfeel.
Deep, fascinating and the changing nose is something which every malt enthusiast should experience at some point in their tasting careers. Sophistication comes from a real deft sense of balance with swirling, sweet and deep flavours never feeling disconnected off jarring. My only real criticism would be level of tannins present which, whilst not cloying are, exceptionally bitter in the finish – but then again, some people love that sensation. Classy presentation, classy whisky. If you’re looking for either a statement piece or an extravagance this will tick your boxes – recommended.
But don't take our word for it..
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