There’s an awkward thing I bring up around Tobermory/Ledaig and there’s an obvious thing.
The awkward thing is due to the “body” or “stinky cheese” or “Brevibacterium” there are a variety of different comments, from the mundane “this is why I don’t like blue cheese” to uncomfortable comments about a variety of sex workers in South East Asian countries who are suffering the brunt of requiring Western travelers visiting them.
Depending on your general sense of humour, you either laugh this off (as some have on Reddit’s Scotch forum before) or find it awkward as heck and not something that you showed up to a whisky tasting to hear (sorry to my fellow drinkers).
The obvious thing is that Ledaig and Tobermory have gained traction. Gone are the days of these being underdogs, and now they are the superior overdogs, known for being above dogs (I don’t really understand metaphors).
As is the way with many things, I’m both a fan of Ledaig (and thus end up with some to drink every now and then) and am in a group of whisky drinkers who always have Ledaig (as they love it quite a bit).
Suffice to say, let’s see what the recent batch is about and if the hype is worth it, shall we?
Ledaig 11 2008 The Whisky Agency
Thanks to xile_ for the sample.
First up we’re looking at an independently bottled Ledaig, which I’m sure surprises absolutely no one. I like IBs, and with the distillery closed for two years, they were a good source for cask strength. Also if you live on this side of the Atlantic, we’ve all been stuck inside for a bit and obtaining distillery specific whiskies through travel is out.
So we have 11 years (10 years? The stated age on the bottle is 11 and the calculation shows 10, so your call) in an ex-Bourbon hogshead that we’re thankful for 183 bottles after the distillery got it’s samples. But is it good? Probably, but I’m biased.
Let’s try the more tried and true approach and drink it before making up our minds, shall we?
Price: $220 CAD (I think, can’t remember)
Cask type: Hogshead
Number of bottles: 183
Colour: 7.5Y 9/4
Nose: Anise, caramel, lemon, dates, custard, pear
Spice, some caramel, some funk that comes off as dates. All these things are what we want from a Ledaig, and less from a chewing gum. Nothing comes off here as “strong peat” that you get from “younger” peated malts.
Oddly there’s a custard note? Yeah, really odd. Is this one of those unpeated Ledaig that someone forgot to write Tobermory on?
Taste: Dry apricots, brown sugar, butter, brine, anise
Tangy, buttery, and brown sugar, as well as some salt. Peat is all spice in these, and I’m all for it. Less odd than before, and less of that richness, however still interesting. I’m less inclined to think it was written incorrectly at this time.
Finish: Hay, cinnamon, pear, molasses, dry apple, caramel donut
Holy damn, farmy, peat spice, and strong rich notes. Any doubt I had of this being peated is now gone, and I’m left holding the bag. But enough about my love of bag holding in solitude, back to the dram.
Well balanced, long finish. Like when you have a good version of a donut sold by some hipster that you doubted and now you’re wondering if you’re a hipster (you are, you read whisky reviews online) but still really enjoying it all.
Conclusion: So basically a custard, farmy, fruity complex peated dram. Or exactly what I want from a Ledaig. Honestly it’s a no brainer. I dread the day (if ever) that they just don’t do this. Surprise you, are fruity, are worth it at young ages, and full of rich notes.
This one was worth it. Have a dram of it if you get the chance (as I’m positive it’s sold out by now). They must have really needed the space at the warehouse if this is what’s being sold to the independent bottlers.
Ledaig 11 2008 Sansibar
Thanks to devoz for sharing this dram.
So I pick up one sample of Ledaig 11, and that means two other people at the tasting… pour me samples of Ledaig 11? Why? What reasons? Those reasons, of course, being that everyone enjoys Ledaig.
So what we have here is a similar vintage, aged with the correct number on the front, yielding more bottles. Also this was bottled for Whiskyklubben Slainte, which a quick google and then google translate tells me they are a Swedish whisky club for everyone.
Who picked it? Are they good at picking? I don’t really know, so let’s find out, shall we?
Price: € 99
Number of bottles: 311
Bottled for: Whiskyklubben Slainte
Colour: 7.5Y 9/4
Nose: Toffee, pineapple, grassy, tar, butter
Initial sweetness and caramel “meh” goes to tropical, then grass, and then some heavy ass tar like it’s time to redo the roads and you’re going fast.
Oh, stop looking at me like I’m the only one who took 5 attempts to get their license. It’s cool, I work closer to home now.
Taste: Oak, campfire, grassy, pineapple, toffee, floral
So the nose had some of that peat influence sneak up on me. The taste takes a different route, lulls me into submission with some oak and then slaps me across the face with that campfire peat smoke.
Once I’m done with the sucker punch (the movie, not the coward attack) there’s fruit, sweets, and even a floral element.
Finish: Lime, anise, Ah Caramel!, brine, raspberry BBQ sauce
Citrus, anise and… wait, does anyone know Ah Caramel! Like, I get fellow Canadians will know they are the super sweet dessert with caramel inside surrounded by cake and chocolate, but… wow, it tastes exactly like those.
Water brings out a tart complexity that’s a crazy town.
Conclusion: Insane finish. More tar filled than the last one.
Simply put, this whisky is for people who are out of patience. You’re patient with your kids, your plants, your animals, your coworkers, and with other people. You get home and this doesn’t make you wait. Immediate powerful notes followed by interesting complexity. Tart, briney, salty, and peaty, like the last one, without the pretense.
I liked it. Gee, hope I have another couple Ledaigs to compare it to…
Tobermory 11 1995 A.D. Rattray Individual Cask Bottling
Thanks to Scotchguy_TO for the dram.
Tobermory? What is up TOModera, lose your mind? Throwing Tobermory in with Ledaig?
You hold onto your pants, Mr/Mrs./Mx Judgey Mc Judgey Pants, Esq. As I alluded to above, Tobermory has a bad habit of mislabeling casks. And the difference between a Tobermory and a Ledaig is enough that sometimes, just sometimes, you get a release of a whisky that says one and is the other.
Heck, my own reviews have a handful of that exact thing. It’s part of the charm of the distillery. They are like us, except when I mislabel things I just take the wrong meds and have a bad week, where as they have a good fun release.
So this is labeled Tobermory, but it’s peated. Thus I’m including it here.
Similar to the past two, we’ve got an 11-year-old peated Tobermory aged in ex-bourbon casks and then bottled up by an independent bottler.
So were the last two flukes? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: Originally 45 Euros, when I attempted to buy one I was told $650 CAD, so YMMV
Cask type: Bourbon
Cask number: 1161
Number of bottles: 155
Colour: 7.5Y 9/4
Nose: Pineapple cooler, salt air, tangerine, lime pudding
Immediate tart and overly sugar-y notes. Some salt, but that type of salt you get when you’re at the beach and not in the surf, like the salt is blowing in your face. I get it, you can’t smell salt, but this smells like the beach.
Tart. Super tart. Immediately I’m wondering what the person who shared it is talking about “peat”.
Taste: Canned pineapple, caramel, brine, lemonade, peach
More tart, some simpler versions of the above, but much the same path: Tart, salty, sugary, and more citrus than anyone other than whatever mutants now live in Florida (I’m joking, Flordians, you’re not mutants) can take.
Finish: Black pepper, pineapple, pure vanilla extract, rubber
Finally I get why people think this is Ledaig and not Tobermory: Finish is strong in that peppery note (really not something that denotes peat and usually comes from a bourbon cask) and then follows it all up with a strong rubber flavour.
We’re talking falling on a bike tire at full speed, mouth open, body not ready, hands sweaty, and perhaps even mom’s spaghetti, here.
Conclusion: Sweeter version with more fake tropical elements that really stand out. At first I was really wondering if I enjoyed this or did drinking bad coolers kill any chance of ever enjoying tropical fruit flavours?
But dammit, I’m not a monster (yet). Tropical flavours are awesome. And this has all of them without the terrible hangover (the real reason I hate them and you do too). It grew on me. I had to scribble out a score so many times. Many ink creatures died for the score.
Jokes aside, yes, it’s not Tobermory, there’s some big peat at the very, very end. You have to be patient. It’s there. And thus it’s okay to be in this review set. I’ll keep telling myself that, you go try this before it jumps in value 10x again (seriously secondary market, WTF).
Ledaig 12 2004 Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength
Thanks to catharticintent for the dram.
Alright we’ve covered the “11-year-old” Ledaigs, we have an idea of which way they can go, we understand that the company sometimes writes the wrong name on a cask, and we get it: I like independent casks.
So we have another independent bottled Ledaig. Wait, don’t go! It’s two casks, and it’s sherry casks, and now it’s 12-years-old… Alright it’s close enough to the other.
I jump between two extremes when it comes to casks: First fill is what I aim to see when it’s a “younger” dram (under 15 years), however it can overpower the dram. On the other hand, having a “younger” whiskey that was in refill sherry doesn’t really have anything and you start wondering if they should have told you “15th refill” on the label.
Joking aside, I’d prefer if the SWA required that, but they are too busy being angry at tequila or something.
So let’s see how both work, shall we?
Price: € 95
Cask type 1st Fill & Refill Sherry Hogsheads
Cask numbers 16600503 & 16600506
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Cocoa, strawberry, brine, smoke, pine, smoked peppers
Earthy, sweet, salty, and smoky. Basically what you want from a peated/sherried whisky. Not getting too complex beyond the cocoa, but.. I mean, it’s cocoa, that’s pretty complex. There’s a reason that child labour is used in chocolate.
Now that you’re sad about the Hershey bar you ate a year ago, let’s move on.
Taste: Black pepper, anise, chocolate caramel, mineral, mint
So on the good side we have the impact of the peat and good balance of interesting sweet and hot flavours, giving us a mixture of spice, chocolate, and sweet.
On the other hand… where did the sherry go? We’re not here for just peat, we’re here for peat and sherry!
Finish: Hot chilli oil, cocoa, ginger, oak, lemon, parsley, chicken broth
So the main flavour that carries the whisky from nose to finish is pepper of some sort. Earthy, spicy, and meaty. Good.
On the other hand the finish feels like they realized they didn’t do homework and are attempting to finish the whole thing on the bus to school. Is that still relatable? I don’t know, do kids do homework, or use teleporters now?
Tons of flavours, all hot, some meaty, and really savoury.
Conclusion: Basically this is why peppers are tasty. It’s a good whisky, let’s get that out of the way. That said, let’s take a second to draw a line between “I enjoy this because it’s made by Ledaig” and “This is a great Ledaig”.
The nose gives you what you want from a sherried Ledaig. The rest? It’s just Ledaig. I swear this was bottled by someone who enjoys sherry on the nose and nowhere else.
The best thing that could have happened to this whisky would have been to act ignorant about the casks. Tell me you don’t know and I’d be nicer. As it stands it’s another good cask strength peated whisky. Cleaner, slightly meaty, and a bit all over the place, but just good.
Ledaig 13 2005 Single Malts of Scotland is… another 13 year sherried Ledaig? Jeez, my life is pretty good (whisky wise), eh?
Alright so we have a different company, picking a different whisky. So comparing it to the above one may not be fair.
HOWEVER, because my whisky online penis is so huge (it really means nothing), I’ve had some of this whisky’s sister casks. And not just one, but three of them, all bottled by Signatory (reviews can be found on my website or in links on reddit or through seances).
So Signatory gets three of the sisters and Malts of Scotland ends up with this one. Who won out? Who will reign supreme? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: £ 145
Cask type: Sherry Butt
Cask Number: 900163
Number of bottles 627
Colour: 7.5YR 4/8
Nose: Chocolate bacon, cherry, manure, oyster, caramel cookie
Never had chocolate bacon? Congrats on avoiding all state fairs and hipsters and bougie grocery stores.
So let’s take a second to compare this nose to the last one: Brine is stronger and more complex, caramel is paired with cereal/vanilla complexity, strong farm-y-ness, and tons of smoke and chocolate complexity. It draws you in.
The last one? Nice, but this is better.
Taste: Dark honey, birch syrup, peanut, sugar plum
Rich caramel notes, some floral, some bitter notes and guess what? You can taste the sherry still! What a great place!
It’s unique. It’s really odd. There’s bitterness matched with strong rich sweets and then… salted peanuts?
Finish: Pine, hazelnut, butterscotch, shrimp, S’Mores, sugarcane
Initially I’m a bit worried, as pine is typically a flavour I associate with bad craft young whisky and Canadian whisky and being at winter camp and having that one jerk throw pine on the fire and being smoked out. If you’re reading this and did that in the 90s, please go punch yourself in the kidneys.
Luckily that ends quickly and we can move past my drama. Sweet, smokey, nutty, and complex. There’s more brine. If anything I feel the only thing missing is some fruitiness from the sherry, but now I’m splitting hairs.
Conclusion: An unusually amazing balance of odd flavours that works. You have brine, sweets, bitterness, and bacon. The whole dram tastes of one of those theoretical recipes where someone found odd food pairings via algorithm. Parts work. Other parts make you wonder what’s happened.
Suffice to say this is what I want from a peated sherry whisky. Sweet and smoky. Does it go a bit crazytown? No, it goes full crazytown, and therein lies the issue. It’s crazy. There’re moments you really wonder what you’re drinking.
Alright time for something different. Yup, Ledaig 13 2005 The Whisky Exchange, an independently bottled… 13-year-old Ledaig that was aged in sherry butts.
Ok. Huh. Also from 2005 and not quite a sister (heck it’s barely a cousin) cask to the others.
Alright, turns out I have a type, and that type is Ledaig for samples I enjoy reviewing. It’s fine, accept it with all the other kinks I have (what a pile) and go about life.
So now we have the lovely people at The Whisky Exchange picking a Ledaig from what’s become a meme of Ledaigs. What did they pick? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 179
Cask type: Sherry butt
Cask Number 900174
Number of bottles: 622
Colour: 10YR 5/8
Nose: Pear, farm, chai chocolate, beef burgers, banana
Not going to lie, at first I was a bit worried about this dram. It comes off as really simple at first. Bit of farm and pear.
Then as time goes on you get a ton of spice, chocolate, meatiness, and funk. Hey, funk is back! Damn right I’m all in at this point.
Taste: Tobacco, plum, light honey, cashew, butter/graham cracker, chipotle
Damn my fine lungs and hatred of tobacco!
Alright, the tobacco doesn’t stick around, otherwise I’d attempt to detail the different flavours I associate with the tobacco in an attempt to detail it because some have mentioned that tobacco as a flavour isn’t exactly 100%. But it disappears pretty quick before I can write it down.
Spicy, sweet, nutty, buttery, and smoke. It’s a lot and hard to keep up with, yet it works nicely. Think BBQ sauce.
Finish: Cocoa, anise, lemongrass, oyster, smoked corn
Finish tries to switch gears back into a spicy/chocolate solid case and it comes off as the other good players on the Bulls in the 90s.
Yeah, it’s good. Cocoa, spice, good brine again, and even some smoke/cereal notes. But it’s not the taste, and that’s too bad.
Conclusion: Basically a lovely full course meal you’ll ever have with all the flavours of home mixed with the best ingredients. Or as I experienced, eating at my buddy’s place when his mom made us so much food we had to beg for her to stop.
This is good. Great even. You could drink this forever. The finish is a bit of a let down only in how not as great it is compared to the taste. The sherry falls off again, though there’s spice notes throughout that help out. All in all you’ll be happy with this if you like Ledaig and like sherry.
Ledaig Pegasus VI 8 2011 Scotch Universe is probably similar to the above. Let me guess, ex-Bourbon and 11-years-old?
No? Then it must be another 13-year-old Ledaig in sherry casks from 2005? No?
Well I completely lost the train here. Little Combo-breaker going on like it’s Killer Instinct at the arcade all over again.
So this is a 9-year-old Ledaig aged in First Fill Port Wine Barriques… wait, what? Alright, didn’t think I wanted to try that as much as I did but here we are, wet as a wild summer and hard as an angry brick.
So let’s see if all the excitement is worth it, shall we?
Price: € 79
Cask Type: First Fill Port Wine Barrique
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Wine gums, brine, orange blossom, cocoa, BBQ sauce
Tart, brine… wait, where’s the peat? This is a young peated whisky, I have expectations here not unlike a young child with A+ style parents! Jimmy better get an A+ or he’s gonna have something to talk about in therapy for years!
Oh water brings it out. Nice, good to hear, hope I didn’t do anything impetuously that could have ramifications for years to come! Good orange/floral note that some people would enjoy with cocoa.
Taste: Jerky, nori, lemon, honey, anisette, papaya
Hey, the smoke! And lots of it. More brine, some acidity, some sweet, and… wait, wasn’t this in a port cask?
Water brings out a tropical note, though be prepared to be confused again because the initial sips are going to be pure Ledaig in ex-bourbon time. Wish it had a bit more funk here.
Finish: Medicinal, French Fries, jalapeno, lime, cocoa, Swedish fish
If I had this blind I’d have said it was Laphroaig based on how strong the finish was. And I’d be wrong.
The finish is very sweet, a bit fatty, and continues with the heat/citrus from before. The port has a final “hey, I’m here” with water and frankly I’m annoyed it barely worked on what it needed to, like so many group work schoolmates.
Conclusion: Standard very tasty Ledaig, wish there was more port influence. I was really hoping for the next stage in amazing Port and Peat, and instead we ended up with a whisky that was mostly peat.
Again, it’s a good dram, and for 9 years old and a cheaper price, it’s a no brainer to get. But if you’re looking for the “next greatest thing” with a peated port dram, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Scotch review #1369-45, Island review #148-54, Whisky Network review #2045-51