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May 30, 2016


The Ledaig works part one

Ledaig, the Brora (and Longrow) of the West. A session that’s long overdue. Indeed there are many new ones around, especially at the indies that seem to favour the peated Tobermories these days. It’s true that the days of ‘wackiness’ are gone at Ledaig’s, and that some of Islay’s names are becoming rarer. And probably more expensive… Let’s kick this off with an official, and then see where the path leads…

Ledaig 18 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2015)

Ledaig 18 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars This baby’s meant to represent ‘the rebirth’ of Ledaig’s original style. Well, if it’s anywhere near the glorious 1972, 1973 or 1974, we’ll have to cheer. Colour: pale gold. Nose: maybe… Theirs is, indeed, this feeling of coal smoke, old stove, burning tea, burning kelp and other seaweed (beach bonfire), or metal polish, lit cigars… Plus a layer of both fresh and old walnuts, and perhaps a smidgen of curry mayonnaise (what?) and mustard. Something ‘original’ indeed. Mouth: good dirty, earthy, spicy (curry again) and pleasantly pungent arrival, but with some candy sugar in the background, which feels just a tad out of place. But other than that, this baby’s much to my liking.  Finish: long, ashy, peaty, with always this candy sugar. Muscovado coating? That’s just a wee bit tiring. Comments: I find it very good but I’m guessing that as usual, the indies will be cleaner and closer to the distillate. Unless there’s sherry… SGP:565 - 85 points.

Ledaig 1999/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice)

Ledaig 1999/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice) Four stars G&M have always had quite a lot of Ledaig. Colour: white wine. Nose: exactly what I was saying. Same core, cleaner profile, going rather towards leafy/herbal notes. Apple peel, fresh walnuts, green tea, seaweed again, and less oak spices. Lovely whiffs of lemon and grapefruit in the background, with a global style that reminds me of some early Ledaigs that G&M had exported to Italy via some well-known distributors, such as Intertrade – or was it Sestante? Some damp wool too. Mouth: I like this much better than earlier Ledaigs by G&M from the, well, early 1990s. Those could be dirty and fermentary, while this is sharp and clean, with a perfect zesty, leafy smoke. Love the feeling of stewed endives in the background. Finish: quite long, ashy, lapsangy (come on). Comments: equivalent to any peated Islay of similar age, but different. As we say, vive la difference. SGP:466 - 87 points.

Perhaps see what colleagues Signatory and Cadenhead have to say?...

Ledaig 10 yo 2004/2015 (60.4%, Signatory Vintage, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900175, 439 bottles)

Ledaig 10 yo 2004/2015 (60.4%, Signatory Vintage, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900175, 439 bottles) Four stars and a half Ouch, this baby may well tear us apart… Colour: amber. Nose: dirty raisiny smoke and metal polish, old coins, toolbox, a box of cigars, fumes, stove… And a lot of power! So, with water: typically cigary, with drops of gasoline and plenty of walnut wine. The peat and the sherry do not clash. Yes that sometimes happens. Mouth (neat): as thick as honey, as spicy as Thai food, as full of caraway as caraway liqueur, as full of cloves as some old-style mouthwash, and as medicinal as a blend of tincture of iodine and cough syrup. Will cure anything – well, perhaps not thirst. With water: excellently dry, walnutty, fino-ish, salty, smoky... And once again, you think ‘coal’ rather than ‘peat’. Finish: long and saltier. Salted cigars or something like that. Marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: just super-hyper good sherried smoke, with a nod to Laphroaig. SGP:457 - 88 points.

Ledaig 22 yo 1993/2015 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 252 bottles)

Ledaig 22 yo 1993/2015 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 252 bottles) Three stars In my book, this is one of the difficult vintages, we’ve tried quite a few feinty ones. But this is also Cadenhead… Colour: straw. Nose: yeah well, this is a completely different style, closer to damp fabric, yogurt, plasticine, clay, ink, carbon paper… So more unlikely, but there are also nice notes bananas and even rum, not too sure where that came from. Whiffs of elderflowers as well, guavas… Intriguing is the word. With water: no, it doesn’t quite swim. A lot of cardboard coming out. Mouth (neat): intriguing indeed. Marzipan, barley wine, oranges, hay wine (they make that in the Vosges, it’s, well, an intriguing drink), some kind of smoked marmalade… With water: swims better on the palate but there’s this feeling of fizziness, Schweppes, cardboard again... Finish: rather long, and good news, it’s rather almonds and lemon that are expressing themselves now. Comments: I’m not sure anyone could do better with these wacky and dirty wishy-washy vintages. SGP:465 - 80 points.

Back to the supposedly better, younger ones! We’ll try to find one from then 1970s later on…

Ledaig 8 yo 2005 (53,7%, Highland Laird, Bartels Rawlings, +/-2014)

Ledaig 8 yo 2005 (53,7%, Highland Laird, Bartels Rawlings, +/-2014) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: pure simple young Ledaig. Very narrow, but what it does it does it very well. Coal smoke, a working kiln, smoked almonds, lapsang souchong. With water: love this, raw wool, kiln, clay, and repeat. Mouth (neat): just perfect young peated whisky, and this time we cannot not think of Ardbeg. Pure crystalline lemony smoke, with a dash of salt and one of black pepper. With water: brilliant. The lemon is coming in. Finish: long, ultra-clean and well-chiselled young peat ‘monster’. Comments: at some point, there’s only one crucial question, ‘would I order a dram in a bar, or not?’ In this case, the answer is ‘a double, please!’ Yeah I know I’m now sounding like a 1930s ad for Dewar’s. Great young peater. SGP:367 - 89 points.

A last one, and let’s make it young!

Ledaig 10 yo 2004/2015 (60.4%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, sherry butt, cask #900179, 588 bottles)

Ledaig 10 yo 2004/2015 (60.4%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, sherry butt, cask #900179, 588 bottles) Four stars Another one by Signatory Vintage, and even a sister cask according to the numbers. Colour: amber. Nose: I think this one’s even more on cigars and walnuts. Drinking Château-Chalon while smoking some kind of Cuban double-corona… while having a gun that just fired in your pocket. Indeed this one’s got much more gunpowder on the nose. With water: extremely gamy, with truffles, used matches, fumes, gas, and more truffles. I’ve heard not everyone likes this as much as I do. Mouth (neat): a massive attack (I know) with more tobacco, flints, cloves, dried pears, and a tarry bitterness that tends to take over your tongue. Even your lips do feel it. Did I mention pepper and cloves? With water: careful, sherried peaters don’t always swim well. In this case, it takes a few drops, but don’t try to bring it down to 40% vol.! At roughly 50%, it’s excellent, and at around 40%, it’s dead. De Profundis. Finish: very long, green, ultra-leafy, acrid, drying. Artichoke, there. Ashtray in the aftertaste. Comments: phew. The sister cask was gentle and even debonair, when compared to this utter beast. Yeah go score such a thing… SGP:367 - around 86 points.

We’ll be back with more Ledaig, perhaps right tomorrow…

More tasting notes Check the index of all Ledaig I've tasted so far



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