Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Whisky Review: Ledaig 15 Year

Ledaig, or Tobermory as it is now known, has had a rocky history. Since its founding in 1798, making it one of the oldest distilleries to still be open, it has operated for maybe half that time. Multi-decade stretches of being mothballed were punctuated by operating for a handful of years or decades. The most recent closure came during the nadir of the industry in the 1980s, with the doors closed from 1982 until it was purchased by Burn Stewart in 1989.

This bottle was released in 2001, which means that the whisky in it must be at least 19 years old, since the distillery had no 15 year old whisky until 2004 or 2005. This expression was bottled at 43%, presumably with coloring and chill filtration.

Thanks to Michael for the sample. He's posted his own review alongside this one and one from MAO at the same time.

Ledaig 15 Year

Nose: very herbal peat, earthy, used coffee grounds, wood smoke, cured meat, Jamaican rum esters, mellow salinity/seashore, berry overtones, unripe bananas, oak in the background, rounded malt, graham cracker pie crust. After adding a couple of drops of water, the peat becomes stronger and more mossy, the berry notes become more grape-y, the rum esters turn into nutmeg, and some floral notes emerge.

Taste: moderate malt sweetness up front that builds towards the back, berry overtones throughout, a slightly rubbery note around the middle, light vanilla and bitter orange peel, mild grassy notes combined with herbal peat near the back. After dilution, the malt becomes less sweet and integrates with the berry notes, the peat becomes stronger and expands towards the middle, and some apple/pear notes join the berries, seaweed, grass, and nutmeg emerge.

Finish: biscuits, vegetal/herbal peat, wildflowers, earthy, cranberries, grapefruit peel

It's hard to make up my mind how I feel about this whisky. It clearly represents a very different era, when there was less focus on clear, bold flavors. In some ways this feels like a Campbeltown malt, somewhere between Glen Scotia and Springbank/Longrow. The coastal elements are there, but without the brashness of Islay or even Skye. Whatever charms it possesses are relatively subtle and take time to emerge. For better or worse, this is very difficult to find anymore, so I'll have to content myself with other versions of Ledaig that are more available.


  1. I've been trying to figure out a comparable current whisky, and I think you make a good point referencing the Campbeltowners, especially Glen Scotia.

    1. This E-pistle suggests that Ledaig was getting peated malt from the same source as Brora in 1972. Not sure how long that was true for.