Ledaig 16yo 1997/2013 (56.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Hogshead #465)

Third of October and right now the doors are opening for the 2015 Whisky Show in London, England. As many years before I’m attending this wonderful Whisky fest, the best few days of the year. Maybe not even the Whisky, but the people. I really can’t wait for it to begin. For those of you that are not there I’ll have a go here at a Ledaig (a.k.a. peated Tobermory) that was picked by The Whisky Exchange. This was a Whisky that was bottled a few weeks after the Whisky Show 2013, but luckily I got a chance to try from Gordon & MacPhail, before it was bottled. People from the Netherlands will know its sister cask #464 which was also excellent but much, much lighter in color.

Ledaig 16yo 1997/2013 (56.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Hogshead #465)Color: Copper orange gold.

Nose: Fatty peat and candy sweetness. Animalesk and organic. Wild stuff. Hints of burnt cable. Unlit tobacco and dark chocolate powder. Very vegetal. Thick and full of itself. Big. Hints of vanilla and cream. Some dried grass and yes some wet grass from a muddy field in October as well. Funky fresh fungi. This never stops giving. Great peat that is balanced out nicely by the Sherry, but the former is the more dominant in this bottling.

Taste: Excellent entry. Sweet, mixed perfectly with licorice and lots of almonds. Even the wood is almondy. Utter and perfect balance. What a great integration of flavours. Red fruits and berries and hints of Gin. Fresh at times. Sea spray and hints of blobs of fresh fatty tar. Remember Lightning McQueen? Hints of stable (cow) and a bit of wood, but not much. Strange enough, with this amount of aroma and at almost 57% ABV., this only  has a medium finish, it gone sooner that you would want. Great aftertaste though. Almonds and red fruit. Salty lips!

If this would be older (tasting), had a longer finish and had even more added depth it would score well into the nineties. If it had more notes of curry and red peppers you could eat this dram. What a near-perfect modern dram this is. Excellent stuff can still be made. I’m happy I had some prior knowledge to snap this up when it was released.

Points: 90

Ledaig 6yo 2004/2011 (46%, Murray McDavid, Heavily Peated, Sherry Cask, 1.500 bottles)

Today we’ll have a look at another Ledaig, The peated Whisky made at Tobermory on the Island of Mull. Tobermory and/or Ledaig once had a bit of a shabby reputation for not being very consistent in quality, but the tide seems to be turned. Lots of very nice Ledaigs are turning up left and right, although the other young one I reviewed earlier wasn’t the best one around. However, quality today is good and even at a young age. This Sherried Ledaig is only 6 years old and looking good. The mere fact that Murray McDavid didn’t turn this into a Whisky with some kind of finish is saying something doesn’t it?

Ledaig 6yo 2004/2011 (46%, Murray McDavid, Heavily Peated, Sherry Cask, 1.500 bottles)Color: Full gold, almost orange.

Nose: Fatty peat and ashes. Nice note of cask toast and dirty Sherry. Smoked kippers. Tarry with hints of black fruit. Smoky and even a bit salty. Reminds me of good peated stuff from a while back, and in those days the peated Whiskies weren’t that old too. If I had smelled this blind I would have thought this was from Longrow, Laphroaig or Kilchoman (Isn’t that a kind of big spectrum?). Vanilla pudding, with a tiny hint of citrus freshness. Lemon, but also a hint of the aroma of sweet strawberries. Excellent nose.

Taste: Toast again, ashes again, but different from what I expected. First of all it is immediately clear that this isn’t in the taste a “heavy” as the nose was. The ghost of reduction? More wood here and much simpler than the nose. The wood gave off a bitter edge which helps the character of the Whisky along, but makes it a Whisky you’ll have to work with. In the finish, the Whisky falls apart. Thin, watery and especially the acidity stays, with the ashes, some almond and yes, the fatty peat, earthy clay and smoky bite.

Not bad, but something isn’t quite right here. Hard to tell, but maybe these weren’t the best Sherry casks around. The peated spirit itself tasted good, but not everything went well with the interaction with the wood. Maybe the Whisky also suffered here by the reduction to 46% ABV. We’ll never know, but I’m guessing this was a bit better at cask strength. Not bad, but could have been better is my obvious conclusion.

Points: 83

Ledaig 8yo 2001/2010 (50%, Kintra, Single Cask Collection, Bourbon Hogshead #800124, 36 bottles)

We took the peat road last time and when I look outside I can understand why. let’s get off that beaten path and tread not to Islay, but this time to the Isle of Mull. Being Dutch myself, let’s have a look at another indie Dutch bottler Kintra. Erik Molenaar is the boss of this outfit. Did Erik source a tiny Hogshead of Ledaig? “Honey. I shrunk the Hogshead” maybe? Nope, Erik shared a cask with a shop in Maastricht. Slijterij Bams. The share of the shop was 218 bottles, Erik’s share was only 36. Funny enough the label of ‘the other’ bottle states 50.6%. The humor doesn’t stop here. Bams don’t have it on their list anymore. Sold out? But The Kintra version is still available! So I can’t wait to try this. I hear that modern Ledaigs can be pretty good…

Color: White wine.

Nose: Warming. Light peat and grassy. Citrussy (fresh) and muddy. Great combination. Non-offensive. Cold wet black tea leaves. Oily old machine. Very nice nose. Perfumy, smoky and quite elegant for a heavily peated whisky. Almost burnt out fireplace on a freezing cold day or evening. Beauty and beast in one. Sour sweat and I do smell a stew in here.

Taste: Sweet with licorice. Soap. Black and white powder. Succulent grass, but also some hay. Burnt cables and lemon. Alas this isn’t as balanced as the nose, nor is it as likeable. It’s sweet at first with a sort of acidic licorice attack. Lot’s of ash in the finish. The lack of balance is a bit disturbing. There is also a bitterness like earwax and a hint of crushed bugs.

It seems simple, but especially the nose shows great balance. The youth shines through on the palate and seems to me to be less balanced. Here the sweetness and the laid back acidity do not match. The more air the whisky gets, the more the balance loses out on both the nose and the palate. Very strange to get this from, what should be a powerful heavily peated Whisky, at this age. What can I say. Maybe Erik made a wise decision to have such a small cask share? Well, totally bad this is not, it just deteriorates rather quickly with air (I used no water to achieve this).

Points: 82