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Issue 10 - Rising star

Whisky Magazine Issue 10
June 2000

 

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Rising star

Andrew Symington has made huge success of Signatory, the world's second largest independent bottler. But this is just the beginning, as Tom Bruce-Gardyne found out.

Tucked away in the back streets of Edinburgh's Newhaven district, Andrew Symington sits at the helm of the world's second biggest independent whisky bottler. No mean feat for Signatory, the company he set up from scratch only 12 years ago. There is no sense of self congratulation however, not the faintest trace in fact. Instead of a flash suit and big cigar, Symington favours overalls and the occasional cigarette. His internal neon-lit office is within a warehouse packed with cases of Scotch and around 100 barrels awaiting bottling. Next door a slow progression of bottles can be heard clanking down the filling line, each one labelled by hand.

For a man who lives and breathes the rarest malts day in day out, has whisky always been in the blood? “I guess my great grandfather worked for VAT 69 for 40 odd years ... I'm quite certain he consumed an enormous amount of it in his time,” reflects Andrew. “Not that it did him any harm - he lived until he was 96.”

Andrew's true initiation began at Prestonfield House Hotel on the outskirts of Edinburgh where he was assistant manager during the 1980s. Prestonfield was one of the grandest venues of its day, and was popular among the big whisky companies for entertaining their foreign agents and distributors. These were the days before the Guinness takeover when the individual firms within the Distillers company like James McEwan and J & D Stewart were largely run as separate entities. “Very often they'd bring along cask sampl...

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