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The Balvenie Signature was crafted to celebrate the forty-fifth year in the industry of their master blender, David Stewart. The bottle alone is pleasingly monumental, with a sturdy form that pours more cleanly than any I've come across.The signature is a marriage of spirit matured in three different kinds of cask - oloroso, first-fill bourbon and second-fill bourbon - to sublime effect.
Jim Murray thinks that the nose 'should immediately become the stuff of whisky legend', and it's hard to disagree. The three different cask styles have combined to create a unique whisky whose first greeting is a rich waft of dates and molasses, exceptionally juicy. The separate contributions of the bourbon and the sherry have constructed a superbly enjoyable whole. There's also a rich fudge note, supported by a firm cereal. The tail end is almost like a sandwich of moist banana on soft white bread, and there's even a pretty distinct (to me at least) reminder of Everton mints (sorry if that's a rather parochial reference, but if you know them you'll know what I mean!).
The palate largely makes good on the promises of the nose. The dates are there, and honey too. The taste is perhaps more dominated by sherry than was the nose, with less balance to the sweet and cereal notes. After the richness of the scent it feels a little weak: if it were bottled at more than 40% it might feel a more rounded expression. Adding water alters the nose, making it arrestingly spicy. It doesn't take much dilution to collapse the taste entirely though, and you needn't add any water to enjoy the Signature at its best.
The finish is soft and rich, matching the nose perfectly. Where the oloroso perhaps dominated the taste, the bourbon is uppermost in the finish, with a medium-length tail of vanilla studded with occasional reminders of sweet spice. Altogether a delightful dram, quite different from the expression its neighbour (and Grant family stablemate) Glenfiddich produces at the same age. The Balvenie Signature is an exemplar of what a talented blender can do to enhance the profile of even his single malts.