Ledaig 18yo (46.3%, OB, Spanish Sherry Wood Finish, Limited Release Batch No. 03, 2016)

Ledaig, a very, very, interesting Malt. Ledaig is the peated version and the self-titled Tobermory is the unpeated Malt from the Tobermory Distillery. Both Malts can do really well in Sherry Casks, often mere finishes already do the trick. Remember the 1972’s? But also check out both sister casks bottled by G&M, #464 and #465, we reviewed earlier. Two malts I really love! But beware, Tobermory, the distillery, had a reputation for being really good, but at times also really bad, or mediocre like the two Independently bottled expressions I reviewed earlier: this young Kintra bottling and this even younger Murray McDavid bottling. So Tobermory/Ledaig used to be a you’d-better-just-try-it-first Malt. Lets be honest, it once had a bad rep altogether. I learned way back, that this was actually one to avoid. Especially the unpeated Tobermory could be really Wonkymory. When buying blind, just buy something 12 years or younger, since quality has really gone up in more recent times. I haven’t tried a lot of official releases of this distillery yet, some are quite expensive, but hurray, when this 18yo (third batch) went on sale, the price drop was amazing for this Malt, I went for it. They even threw in a good lookin’ coffin for ya hamster! So time to try this 18yo Oloroso finished Ledaig. This Malt is released in batches, so an investigation in batch variation could be nice and I will do that when given the chance. This time however we’ll only have a look at the latest batch, which at the time of writing, is No. 3.

When my friend Nico tried the freshly opened bottle, the only words that came out before going into toxic shock was “rubber”, oh dear! Thankfully he recovered and dared to try it again, on another occasion, after some breathing. It seems the Ledaig needed some breathing, and probably Nico did too. Nico thought it improved with breathing. Now, lets try for ourselves, and yes we did let it breathe for quite some time (it was a shared bottle and I got the second half), so essentially I got a pre-breathed bottle!

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Extremely funky, but not Jamaican Rum funky, that’s something different altogether. Wonderful fatty peat and fresh sea spray. Fireplace at Christmas. Warming and animalesk. Crushed insects. Very ashy and dusty. Wonderful perfumy wood. Yes, several different kinds of rubber as well; tires, and orange rubber hose come to mind. Warm motor oil. Quite steam punkish and extremely aromatic. More sweet peat and soft smoke. Fatty and broad. Already a very, very pleasant fruity Sherry note comes through. Good Oloroso, good boy! Whilst falling in love with the fine red fruity notes of black berries, and red forest fruit, I get hit over the head with ashy and fatty peat. What a nice interaction, what a nice effect. Never a dull moment with Ledaig. Cigarette smoke and some toffee, showing a slightly more sweeter side. Cookie dough. Steam, salty almonds and seaside tar. Dried or smoked fish. Licorice, salty and smoky now. The peat came first, now the smoke. Fish soup. This is a good smelling Malt for “men”. Bearded, rugged fisherman type of men. With an anchor tattooed on an oversized biceps. Not bearded metro-men, always dressed in a white tee, shopping online for moisturisers and contemplating a meaningless tattoo which will be out of fashion in a years’ time. This Whisky is rugged and boasts big aroma’s. Nakatomi tower style, be warned. Excellent. As often, this does need to break in. It really needs a lot of air to show all it’s got (and to lose the wee smells of sulphur and rubber), and when it does show all it’s got, boy, what wonderful balance! The emptier the bottle the better this is. The nose alone is already worth a 90+ score. Amazing how this brings back the wonderful Whiskies from the days before cars had seat belts and in a way, this also smells like an old car that originally never had seat belts.

Taste: Licorice comes first. Sweet licorice, nutty licorice, fruity licorice. The peat separates from the roof of my mouth into my nose. Nice! Definitely a sweet fruity note right from the start. Short burst of almond liqueur, without the lingering sweet finish. Less bitter than I thought it would be, but it does carry enough wood notes. Hints of steam locomotive and cola. Tastes very first half 20th century. Industrial and old. Stings a bit on my tongue, but not much. Less big as well and the liquid is not syrupy. It starts out promising, and shows a beer-like medium finish, which again some wood (and hops). I guess the reduction to 46.3% did it some harm. Slightly woody bitterness with mocha and milk chocolate. Not a huge aftertaste, nope, note even big, but again licorice (from Bassett’s Allsorts, the anise from this is present as well). Yup, special slightly bitter Belgian Beer. Westmalle Triple. Hops. Haagsche Hopjes as well, a coffee flavoured hard candy from the Netherlands. Where is this going I ask myself, nice complexity. The palate is slightly less magnificent than the nose was. From an almost empty bottle, the nose is stellar. The palate is slightly thin and also less balanced. I guess due to reduction. Medium finish at best (again, the reduction). The aftertaste is soft and lingering.

Do yourself an huge favour. When you buy this, open it a few days earlier and dare to put it away without a cork. If the ABV. would have been (much) higher, I would say, put it away for a few weeks without a cork. This Whisky needs a humongous amount of air to shine. The difference is really big. The harsh rubber notes, Nico was telling me about, are gone now, since my half of the bottle got a lot of air over time. When writing this review the bottle is 80% empty. Even when you do pour it, leave it in your glass for a while. Let it roll around. Keep it moving, warm it up in the palm of your hand. Be nice and gentle to this rugged Malt, and like a good boy it will jump up to you and lick your face.

Points: 90

Tobermory 1995/2006 (55.6%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #744)

The last Tobermory I reviewed was one of the stellar 32yo’s that have quite a reputation. How to follow-up on one of those? Today we’ll be looking at and independently bottled Tobermory. The bottler being Berry Brothers & Rudd and the year of distillation 1995. Tobermory has a rocky past and for a while even was converted into a power station. The reputation of the distillate was even shakier. In the past this stuff could really be hit or miss, so not something you would buy untasted. It could be really bad and funky, strange even. On the other hand, if it was good it could be really good, surpassing most other Whiskies, so the potential is there. Today that reputation is different. Tobermory and Ledaig are getting better by the year, and every new release is something that interests me a lot. Still no easy Malt, but if you get it, you’ll get it. In the day where everything starts to taste a bit similar and official bottlings are becoming younger and NAS-ser, an independently bottled Tobermory or Ledaig could very well be your best choice. At least it often is different from the rest. What more could you want these days?

Tobermory 744Color: White wine.

Nose: Heaps of barley. Damp hay. Citrussy fresh. Lowland style. Lemon grass, lemon curd, all kinds of sweet lemon, without being overly present and thus overly acidic. Hints of new-made spirit even. Old vanilla. Very light. Hints of a salty sea breeze. Very light peat as well. Smells chewy. Sappy, spicy, fragrant and vegetal wood in the background. Garden bonfire, burning off some dry grass. The initial barley note wears out, for a more coherent smell. I’m not sure if this is perfectly made Whisky, but after I got used to the Bladnoch 8yo I reviewed earlier, I seem to like this one as well. Just like the Bladnoch, this profile grows on me.

Taste: Very sweet entry. Sugary sweet. Sweet barley. Most definitely some hints of Grappa. Toffee, but also a sharper and drier element. All sorts of lemon again, combined with toffee and some dry wood. Otherwise not very fruity. A plethora of different dry grasses. Fatty and hints of cold dish water you forgot. Faint soapyness, like the paper wrapper that came off a bar of soap years ago.

Excellent entry and body, aided by this very typical profile. Nice stuff. The finish is not so strong and concentrates around two or three distinct markers from the body. Slightly soapy barley, wood and paper. As well as a tiny bitter note. The sweetness is gone, although hints of toffee reappear in the aftertaste.

Not a very easy Malt, but definitely one you would like to try, since it is different from many other malts. Quite the learning experience, because it’s almost like an unpeated, peated Malt. It’s how a peated Malt could be underneath. Although this is also no Lowlander, it is nice to have since it has a second face as a Lowlander. True Lowlanders like Rosebank and others are becoming more and more scarce and expensive. Besides this Tobermory, I hope for a bright future for Bladnoch as well, but if not, try something like this before the profile becomes extinct.

Points: 85

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

Tobermory 32yo 1972/2005 (50.1%, OB, Green Label, Oloroso Sherry Finish, 912 bottles)

This is the first Tobermory on these pages and the Whisky itself comes from the Island of Mull. This distillery was founded already in 1798 and was originally called Tobermory. Tobermory closed in 1930 and was turned into a power station. It stayed closed as a distillery, untill it reopened in 1972, but this time as Ledaig. Ledaig’s history, from its reopening was a rocky one, with a lot of buying and selling of the distillery with production stops to match. The current owner is Burn Stewart (which itself is/was owned by an insurance company (since 2002), that again was rescued by the government of Trinidad & Tobago in 2010. You don’t want to know…)

Back to Tobermory (or Ledaig). Ledaig was sold to Burn Stewart in 1993, and they decided to give back its original name: Tobermory. In 2005 Tobermory issued three 32yo from 1972. These were Oloroso Sherry finished Whiskies. One with a black label, one with a red label and this green label reviewed here. Purists mention an additional brown labeled version for sale at the distillery. Also 32yo and 1972, but “put on bottle” in 2010, so it must have been kept in stainless steel tanks of on glass from 2005 to 2010 to stop further ageing. Not a lot is known about this bottle…

Color: Brown

Nose: Tarry with lots of red and black fruits. Peat, asphalt and lemonade. Honey. Very appetizing. Coal smoke and steam. This is a true vintage steam locomotive. A little bit of plum with a lot of burned sugar. Toasted wood, burned wood (when turned cold again) and burned paper. Cookie dough. Later it gets dryer and more dusty. Incense. There are a lot of associations with burned stuff, but still, all that doesn’t overpower the whisky. The fruityness makes for great balance. This is truly one of these malts that oozes the days of yesteryear and really they don’t make them like this anymore…

Taste: Strong and again steam locomotive. The taste matches the nose perfectly. Thick sherry with some licorice. It’s fruity, red fruit and the fruit part is fresh and lively. Over this fruit steam and coal again. Hard (red) candied fruit. Quite nice is that the finish is only a little bit bitter. Warming. Wood and tar. The only beef I have with this Green label as opposed to the other two is that the taste is not that balanced and coherent. It doesn’t gel completely and with time it sometimes seems thinner than the other two.

Of the three, this is the least interesting one. In my humble opinion, the Red label Tobermory 32yo is the best, but the black follows in its footsteps quite well. Between the two it’s a matter of taste. Still, if the other ones aren’t available, do get this one in stead, because you’re up for a nice journey, and this one is pretty good by itself! All three of these whiskies may not be perfect, but they are classics in their own right and they do deserve a place in the Whisky hall of Fame!

Points: 88

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