Monday, July 28, 2014

Whisky Review: Exclusive Malts Ledaig 2005/8 Year Cask #9

The Exclusive Malts are a line of single cask bottlings from The Creative Whisky Company. They have been starting to release some of their single malts on the American market over the last couple of years and this is part of their fifth batch.

This Ledaig was bottled at cask strength of 56.7% without coloring (quelle surprise!) or chill filtration.

Thanks to Helen at ImpEx Beverages for this sample.

Exclusive Malts Ledaig 2005/8 Year Cask #9

Nose: green malt/new make/pine/juniper, fudge-y vegetal peat, a touch of wood smoke, used coffee grounds, a slug of oak tannins, salty Playdough, seashells, more rounded grain notes with time. After adding a few drops of water, the grain becomes more prominent, the new make notes settle down a bit, but the peat fades significantly, some berry notes pop out,

Taste: sweet barley up front, quickly segueing into fresh peat, vegetation, solvent/new make, and fresh oak, nearly obscuring some fruity/floral esters near the back. After dilution, the sweetness expands and integrates with the new make notes - forming a more tolerable whole, the peat is more clearly defined and funky/vegetal, and the small amount of oak hides under everything else.

Finish: new make grain, funky vegetal peat, a hint of oak, residual alcohol

For having spent eight years in oak casks, this is pretty much as close to Ledaig's new make spirit as you're likely to be able to buy. While the oak makes itself fairly well known on the nose, it has done absolutely nothing to diminish the barley spirit character. The solvent flavors on the palate haven't even off-gassed, which makes it rough going. I cringed almost every time I took a sip. Other than as an academic exercise, I don't understand why Exclusive Malts decided to bottle this, rather than transferring it to a more active cask. It's not just the age, because the 6 YO Blackadder Ledaig I tried had none of the roughness I found in this. I just can't recommend it as something most people are going to want to drink on a regular basis. It would be interesting as part of a broader Ledaig tasting - comparing this to the barely older OB 10 Year is instructive in how first-fill ex-bourbon casks can shape the spirit. The Nth fill cask this came from just wasn't active enough to turn it into something drinkable.

A number of these 'barely aged' peated single malts have been hitting the market over the last couple of years, including K&L's Talisker Speakeasy 5 Year and Island Distillery 7 Year (also an Exclusive Malts Ledaig). Much like the trend of craft distilleries releasing 'white whiskeys', I wonder how much traction these can gain. As I suggested, they can be interesting as academic exercises, but the appeal as whiskies to drink for pleasure seems limited.


  1. 8 years old and it's about the colour of simple syrup? What did they age it in, a 12th-fill glass jar?

  2. That is some clear stuff.

    It does sound a little similar to the Talisker Speakeasy, though that one was kinda fun and I knew it was going to be raw at 5 years. The Speakeasy also probably worked best as a tasting exercise with other whiskies from its distillery.

    The European retailers that I regularly peruse have all been getting A LOT of infant (≤ 7yrs) whiskies. But those same baby single barrels that went up for sale last year...are still available. I wonder who they think their target market is? A whisky geek might try one from his/her favorite distillery just for kicks, but I doubt he or she would buy another. Is this a sign of desperation to sell something? Or did Kilchoman give bottlers false hope?

    1. I think it's a combination of "all these startup distilleries are selling young, oaky whiskey for huge amounts of money, so I want some of that" and occasionally finding young casks that actually are really good. The 9 YO Lagavulin I tried at the distillery was pretty good. I liked that 6 YO Blackadder Ledaig a lot. I've heard great things about a Signatory CS Tamdhu 8 YO. But one thing those all have in common is coming from sherry casks. An active first-fill sherry cask will smooth over a lot of those rough edges pretty quickly (see all the NAS sherry bombs coming out lately), but Nth fill ex-bourbon casks just aren't going to hack it.

  3. I just tried it at a tasting and the rep said it was aged in white wine casks. I liked it a lot but it was just too simple and a bit thin to justify a bottle.