Whisky Magazine Issue 13
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Charles Maclean talks to Andrew Symington of Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky
CM How did you get into the whisky trade?
AS There was a family connection, my grandfather worked for VAT 69 for forty-odd years, but I discovered the pleasure of single malt and single cask single malt when I was Assistant Manager at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh during the 1980s. In those days malt whisky was uncommon and single cask, natural strength malt almost unheard of. Yet there were signs of growing interest and as soon as people tasted fine malt whisky they wanted more.
CM How do you choose your whiskies?
AS I go for what I like and I listen to what my customers want from country to country. I like big well matured whiskies, preferably from sherry-wood (Mortlach, Dufftown and Brora come to mind), but also soft malts with finesse like Glenlivet and Rosebank. I look for oddities and non-mainstream distilleries. The more varied my list is, the happier my customers are.
CM Do you find that sherry-wood masks the distillery character?
AS This doesn't bother me. I am looking at the style and character of the mature product. In many cases the whiskies I select bear little resemblance to the proprietors' bottling – I state so much on my price list to avoid disappointment. Certain markets favour certain styles. The Germans, for example, love very heavily sherried malts, even malts with that sulphurous note you sometimes get from sherry-wood. They also like heavy, oily Islays, as do people from the Nordic countries. French and Italians tend to go for...