Prestonfield

In the 1980s, Andrew Symington was assistant director of Edinburgh’s renowned Prestonfield House, a five-star hotel housed in a former country manor built in 1687 by architect Sir William Bruce for the city’s Lord Provost James Dick. Dick first bought the Priestfield estate in 1671, but the original house had burned down in an anti-Catholic riot in 1681. In 1689 the estate was renamed Prestonfield to distance it from the religious connotations of its original name. The estate remained in the family until it was converted into a hotel in the 1960s.

 

The Prestonfield House Hotel

 

Famous guests at the hotel and restaurant include Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Sean Connery and Elton John. Many key players in the whisky industry also invited clients there and the hotel bar was stocked with an impressive array of malts. It didn’t take long for Andrew Symington to take an interest and he soon began bottling casks specially for the hotel under the Prestonfield label. These notably included a Bowmore 1965 and two Springbank 1967s, all bottled in 1987.

Symington eventually left Prestonfield House to become an independent bottler in 1988. He set up a small bottling line in his warehouses in Edinburgh and founded Signatory Vintage, quickly becoming a leading name in the industry alongside established players such as Gordon & MacPhail and Cadenhead. Signatory Vintage immediately stood out for its rejection of artificial colouring and chill-filtration, its penchant for cask strength bottlings and its memorable labels. Single malts were still something of a niche product, but the tides were turning and in the same year United Distillers launched the soon-to-be iconic Classic Malts range.

Signatory Vintage bought the right to use the hotel’s name for its releases and labels and the whiskies were bottled by The Prestonfield Whisky Co. Ltd. There was no mention of Signatory Vintage on the bottle. The range used three different labels, one with a coloured ribbon, another with a black and white print of Prestonfield House, and a third featuring a colour image of the hotel and a peacock. Many miniatures were also released, as well as a handful of crystal decanters engraved with an image similar to the one found on the coloured labels. Some bottlings were released at 40%, 43% or 46% ABV and others at cask strength. Clearly Andrew Symington’s unique skills and trademarks were already in place in the Prestonfield range.

The last bottling in the range was released in 2011, a Glen Scotia 1977 for La Maison du Whisky. Although many of Signatory Vintage’s ranges are of note, Prestonfield is particularly popular due to the high quality of the malts—most distilled in the 1960s and 1970s—and the historic connection to Andrew Symington’s early days as an independent bottler, where he developed what would become the house’s signature style.

 

Prestonfield Estate’s peacocks

 

A chronological list of bottlings in the range

 

Bowmore 22 Year Old 1965, 43%, 75 cl, 1987

Bowmore 21 Year Old 1966, 43%, 75 cl, 1987

Springbank 20 Year Old 1967, 46%, 75 cl, 1987

Springbank 20 Year Old 1967, 46%, 75 cl, 1987

Bowmore 16 Year Old 1972, 43%, 75 cl, 1988

Caperdonich 16 Year Old 1972, 40%, 75 cl, 1988

Glendronach 18 Year Old 1970, 43%, 70 cl, 1988

Balvenie 15 Year Old 1974, 43%, 75 cl, 1989

Bruichladdich 20 Year Old 1969, 43%, 75 cl, 1989

Glen Keith 22 Year Old 1967, 46%, 75 cl, 1989

Tomintoul 18 Year Old 1971, 40%, 75 cl, 1989

Glendronach 20 Year Old 1970, 43%, 75 cl, 1990

Highland Park 16 Year Old 1974, 57%, 75 cl, 1990

Ardbeg 17 Year Old 1974, 43%, 70 cl, 1991

Glen Mhor 26 Year Old 1965, 56%, 75 cl, 1991

Glenrothes 16 Year Old 1975, 43%, 70 cl, 1991

Caol Ila 18 Year Old 1974, 43%, 70 cl, 1992

Glenlivet 29 Year Old 1963, 52.1 %, 70 cl, 1992

Tomatin 26 Year Old 1966, 43%, 70 cl, 1992

Glendronach 24 Year Old 1970, 43%, 70 cl, 1994

Glenfarclas 24 Year Old 1970, 43%, 70 cl, 1994

Longmorn 27 Year Old 1969, 43%, 70 cl, 1996

Glendronach 24 Year Old 1975, 46%, 70 cl, 1999

Port Ellen 24 Year Old 1975, 46%, 70 cl, 1999

Brora 19 Year Old 1981, 58.8 %, 70 cl, 2000

Bunnahabhain 20 Year Old 1980, 54.8 %, 70 cl, 2000

Glendronach 23 Year Old 1976, 46%, 70 cl, 2000

Caol Ila 28 Year Old 1974, 46%, 70 cl, 2002

Bowmore 24 Year Old 1980, 46%, 70 cl, 2004

Springbank 34 Year Old 1970, 51.2%, 70 cl, 2004

Clynelish 33 Year Old 1973, 54.3%, 70 cl, 2006

Clynelish 33 Year Old 1973, 54.6%, 70 cl, 2006

North British 45 Year Old 1962, 59.9%, 70 cl, 2007

Bowmore 36 Year Old 1972, 48.8%, 70 cl, 2008

Ben Nevis 34 Year Old 1975, 62.6 %, 70 cl, 2009

Ben Nevis 34 Year Old 1975, 63%, 70 cl, 2009

Bowmore 20 Year Old 1990, 50.7%, 70 cl, 2010

Glen Scotia 33 Year Old 1977, 49.1%, 70 cl, 2011

 

 

Bowmore 22 Year Old 1965

43%, 75 cl

At its 43% ABV, this Bowmore has no lack of complexity. It boasts not only the usual notes of exotic fruits (mango, pineapple) but also a myriad of citrus fruits (bitter orange, grapefruit, kumquat) and orchard fruits (apricot, plum). This bottle also stands out for its tertiary (leather, coffee), peaty and slightly herbaceous aspect, rarely found with such intensity in Bowmore from the 1960s, which are often more fruit-forward.

 

Clynelish 33 Year Old 1973 Prestonfield 1st Release

54.3%, 70 cl, #8912

405 bottles

 

A very exotic Clynelish marked by the presence of an somewhat Brora-like peat. Clynelish’s unique notes of honey, resin and beeswax are also found. This is a very fruity (orange, lemon) and exotic (Victoria pineapple, guava, mango) whisky, with notes nuanced by a more tertiary character that brings tobacco and leather to mind. Finally, notes of aromatic plants (aniseed, gentian) and spices (ginger, pepper) are also revealed. A mystifying Clynelish with a complexity sure to captivate the taster.

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