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.