Imperial 18, 1995-2014, Hogshead 50292+50293, 58.3% – Signatory Vintage

It’s been a while since I tried Imperial. Almost two years since the last review, but in the last seven years I’ve only had three. They are getting more rare with every release, since the distillery shut its doors 26 years ago.

Contrary to Port Ellen and Brora, this one won’t be restarting, since it has since been demolished, and on the same site. Destruction of the buildings happened in 2013 and since then Dalmunach Distillery has been built, opened and has even released some young whiskies of which Tom reviewed a couple.

By what I read about the distillery it is one of those blend fillers, with most of its output being used to give a bit of weight and balance to blended whiskies. It was built for its single malt, but it came on steam too late for an initial wave of popularity. When single malt whisky started becoming popular again, the distillery had already closed its doors.

In its almost 100 year life it the distillery lay silent for a lot of it, sometimes even for 30 years in a row. The distillery was built in 1897, but a downturn happened in 1899 (for the entirity of Scotland/whisky). It started production again in 1919. A few years of production followed by a 30 year long shutdown. Then it started again around 1965, to be shut down in 1985 when things went south for the entire industry once more. Reopenied in 1991, only to be finally shut down four years later, even though refurbishment was done around its final reopening.

I’ve always found Imperial a bit of a weird whisky. While a single malt it generally shows a lot of similarities in character to grain whiskies. Not as heavy as other single malts and with more sweetness too. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it does always make me a bit apprehensive when trying a new one.

Image from Whiskybase

This bottling was done at 18 years old, so quite a significant age for a whisky that is so hard to come by. Two bourbon hogsheads were used by Signatory, and with this rating at 89.20 at Whiskybase, I’m quite interested in trying it.

An interesting combination of chalky dryness, and a wine gum like sweetness. Fruity with notes of lime, sour apples. Barley grist and a sweet oak scent.

The palate loses a bit of its sweetness, in favor of gritty dry notes. Chalk, grist, and on top of that the shitload of alcohol.

The finish has awesome balance and complexity. Dryness with a bit of sweetness, candy, a bit of roasted marshmallow, barley too.

Not entirely surprising, it is a bit of a weird whisky. The combination of the very sweet notes of wine gum on the nose, with the bone dry chalkiness that somehow comes with it makes it interesting, but strange. It draws your attention because of it.

In that way, it fits the distillery character and in this case it’s a shame it’s gone. I wouldn’t mind trying more like this, every now and then!


Available in the secondary market at the time of writing, for € 299


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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1 Response to Imperial 18, 1995-2014, Hogshead 50292+50293, 58.3% – Signatory Vintage

  1. Oh, and yes, I am aware of the irony when such a rarity is reviewed in bulk by Serge on the very same day…

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