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Ledaig (led-chig) 10-year single malt scotch is distilled at the Tobermory Distillery on the Hebridean Isle of Mull, in the western Island region of Scotland. On the bottle is written “wonderfully peated”, and if this was intended as a 1-line review, I would be finished … as Ledaig is indeed peated in a wonderful way.
The other expressions from this distillery are the Tobermory 10 and Tobermory 15, which are unpeated. The Ledaig is heavily peated, from both the water, and from the use of 100% peat-dried barley. Ledaig is not chill-filtered, and probably not colored. Bern Stewart now owns the Tobermory, Ledaig, Black Bottle, Bunnahabhain and Deaston brands. He has been raising the ABV (46.3), creating new glass bottles and promoting non-chill-filtering for his brands, and from what I have tasted, he is distilling some very promising malts.
Bottle Nose: Nothing is held back … removing the cork releases a captivating bouquet, even from a meter away, of pungent essences of oily and syrupy peat, honey, marzipan, nuts, glue, rubber, sulphur and brine. No smoke, but a honey and sulphury type of peat. Someone suggested creosote on railroad tracks (a fond memory), and maybe that is what I was trying to identify. There is something in this incredible aroma package that hopelessly draws you into captivity.
Glass Nose: Quite heavy with honey, a little rubber, glue, brine and a little citrus. There is no difference with water.
Palate: It is important to note that the optimal experience for me did not occur until after about 5 sips, where the sense of youngness disappears, and a party of pungent flavors that dance together in complete harmony evolves. We have tingly and briny iodine, a dark brown sugar, rubbery sweetness, honey and oily peat, sulphur, marzipan and cinnamon … just about as the nose predicted. This is similar to Longrow CV, which after experiencing Ledaig, now appears mild and behaved, but still tantalizing.
Finish: A lovely warm and glowing fairly long grand finale of slightly sulphury and rubbery sweet peat integrated with spices and brown sugar, and soft, controlled smoke .. and maybe a whiff of dry campfire. Rubber was never so good.
Conclusion: Ledaig 10 is neither a fine, elegant nor reserved whisky, but rather it is pungent, engaging, complex, colorful, flavorful and naughty … and it may not be for everyone. Ledaig is gregarious, and more fun than most of its neighbors from Islay, and is a step up from its cousin, Longrow CV … which is already quite tantalizing. Ledaig is a colorful and funky whisky, and while the fine popular Islays have a place in my cabinet, they now seem somewhat reserved and one-dimensional compared to Ledaig 10.
The peaty character of Ledaig (and Longrow and Springbank) is that of a sweet, sulphur, rubber and maybe bacon character, as compared to the Islay fire pit smoke (in my opinion, and perhaps excepting Ardbeg). Ledaig is neither fireplace, road tar, auto shop nor seaweed, but rather a pungent, intertwined sweet, briny, rubbery and peaty composition … which is well-balanced, and it is quite amazing that it all works. If you like Springbank and Longrow CV, Ledaig 10 is your next destination … but please try not to forget about your first love … Springbank.
And, to share with you, my west highland trio, that I have recently been pleasantly courting and enjoying, you need to have Springbank 10, then Longrow CV (both from Campbeltown), and finally Ledaig 10. These all seem to share the same genes with increasing levels of depth, intensity and wildness. After this adventure, you may actually find it difficult to go back to your previous malt favorites. I have always enjoyed this type of peated malt in which peat is a valuable team player, but not the main show … others are Bruichladdich Rocks, Jura Superstition and Ardmore Trad Cask.
And, just as a bearing of comparison … just as a fine malt like Bruichladdich Peat or Lagavulin will nicely compliment an afternoon or dinner reception, Ledaig 10 will be the malt to take you to the all night party.
Score 94/100 in its peated, non-wine-finished category.