The whisky landscape today is one of highly varied terrain, with an increasing footprint for bottles occupying a space within the luxury market. These tend to be defined by hallmarks such as elaborate decanters or bottle designs, ostentatious outer packaging and often with an elaborate narrative. While these have their place, they invariably come with a price point, bottle count, or both, that are prohibitive to the everyday drinker. Despite this, some of the most glittering gems find themselves hidden in plain sight, often in the form of proprietary core range releases, well-distributed limited editions or charmingly un-showy independent bottlings. Crucially, these are whiskies that let the liquid do the talking, obtaining lauded, cult or even legendary status thanks only to the opinion of those lucky enough to try them.
For an independent bottling company, large or small, this requires the utmost faith in their product and perhaps none have exemplified this with more success over the years than Signatory Vintage. Founded in 1988 by Andrew Symington, the business is loved for its unpretentious approach to packaging and its bottles are today instantly recognisable despite their famous use of demure label styles. These provide all the information required to buy, but leave all of the impetus on the ‘try,’ foregoing any attempts to coerce or influence the opinion of the drinker. This confidence has proven entirely justified over the years and is backed up by an array of now hugely sought-after releases that have formed a little-rivalled, oeuvre-spanning retrospective of Scotch whisky distilling from the second half of the 20th century.
Generally single cask bottlings, Signatory Vintage releases are rare and increasingly so in terms of its early output. Rarer still are a collection of bottlings produced through former subsidiaries such as Dun Eideann and the Prestonfield Whisky Company. The purpose of these was to allow the business to sell whisky to a range of different distributors. Signatory Vintage had exclusive deals in France and Italy, for example, with the powerhouse duo of La Maison du Whisky and Velier, however, it could sell the Dun Eideann brand to different and often interesting smaller importers.
In Italy, this was Donato, a pioneering company that was one of the first to import Macallan in the 1960s, while in France it worked with Auxil, an unusual distributor established to raise funds for a religious commune in Saint-Geours-de-Maremne (today named after its founder, Jean Boyer).
The market specificity of these bottlings has made them hard-to-find and equally desirable. With Italy and France both early enthusiasts for the single malt Scotch category, they were treated by Signatory Vintage to some exceptional whiskies, too. These included legendary 1960s vintages from Springbank and Bowmore, rare sightings in independent form from distilleries like Balvenie and Glenfarclas, and whiskies from now-silent producers such as Port Ellen, Caperdonich, Glen Mhor and Glen Albyn.
We are delighted to feature examples of each of these in our November 2023 sale at Whisky Auctioneer, among a number of others in what is a unique opportunity to explore a much-loved but lesser-seen brand. These are bottles that may not jump out of the page at you, but they will reward those who take a deep dive into them.
This article is sponsored by Whisky Auctioneer and was created in partnership with the team at Whisky Magazine. This sponsorship does not influence Whisky Magazine's coverage of auctions and Whisky Auctioneer do not have input on editorial decisions.
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Whisky Auctioneer is one of the global market leaders and trusted authorities on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction. Founded in 2013 and located in Perth, Whisky Auctioneer utilises its expertise and knowledge combined with its auction platform, to increase interest and passion in the whisky and spirits community.
Whisky Auctioneer endeavours to make the market more accessible for buyers and sellers of any background and geography. Its monthly global auctions feature some of the most comprehensive selections of old, rare and collectible whiskies and spirits available online.
Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-pound bottle and outperformed the nearest traditional auction house by 200 per cent in value from spirits sales in 2020, showcasing the move that whisky collectors, investors and drinkers have already made online and firmly establishing their leading position within the modern secondary whisky market.