The Imperial distillery has been closed since 1998. It is located in Speyside and is currently mothballed (this term means that the distillery remains intact but is not in operation). The distillery originally opened in 1897 and has had a chequered history resulting in it being closed on four seperate occasions, totalling over 50 years of non production. Fortunately, it has been re-opened on three of these occasions by new owners and it remains to be seen if the current owners, drinks giant Pernod Ricard, will do the same. The stocks are dwindling and releases are few and far between, limited to independent bottlers. However, Imperial is held in high regard within the whisky world so I was keen to try for myself. This release from independent bottler Signatory Vintage is a 17 years old.
The colour is very pale for something of that age and the nose is promising. The aromas are complex with an initial malty barley sweetness giving way to fresh fruit (think of the smell of a shiny red apple) and something herbal (reminded me of freshly cut grass). This whisky is light and fresh on the palate with the malty sweetness mixing with a fruity element (but dried fruit this time, like sultanas and dried apple), vanilla and just a hint of spiciness (ginger, I think). The finish is medium to long and really grassy. There is also a bitter edge to it which some may find a bit harsh. However, I found it to be very refreshing. This is a subtle and delicate whisky that would be very easy drinking in hot weather or as an aperitif. It is also great value at just under £30 a bottle, especially when considering that the distillery is closed, and available at independent retailers only.