Ledaig is the name of the peated whisky produced at the Tobermory distillery on Mull–the unpeated is sold under the Tobermory name. The distillery was originally founded as Ledaig, however, and I’m not sure when Tobermory became the official name. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with the whisky, of either type, made at this distillery. There has not been a whole lot of it available in the US and what has been has not always had the strongest reputation. This has especially been true of contemporary Ledaig. However, I’ve recently had some young indie Ledaigs that were quite nice and so when I saw samples of this far more ancient (from an earlier era, and very old) Ledaig were available I could not resist. The bottler is Alambic Classique, another German bottler with a good reputation.
Ledaig 40, 1972-2013 (48.2%; Alambic Classique, oloroso sherry cask 13310; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Oh my. Rich, earthy peat; no smoke as such. Then deep caramel and a big hit of dark fruit: concentrated raisins, apricots, plum jam, tangerine peel. The next wave is from the ocean: kelp, salt. And then the farmy peat returns with some dry smoke. There’s no hint of wood on the nose, which is quite remarkable for a 40 year old whisky. With more time there’s leather (an old armchair in a dusty library), balsamic reduction, dark soy sauce. And with even more time it gets quite fruity again. One drop of water brightens the fruit up a little at first and then makes it fermented and tropical. Really quite lovely.
Palate: Soft mouthfeel. Leathery peat and plum syrup, followed by some salt. Smoke builds in the background but is not too heavy. Remarkably, there’s no wood here either. It’s not just that it’s remarkably un-woody for a 40 year old whisky, it’s that this is not woody at all. How does that happen? On the second sip fruit takes precedence: citrus now along with the plums. And there’s more dry and salty smoke now–and there’s that aged balsamic from the nose. Water pulls the fruit out to the front and pushes the peat to the back: dried tangerine peel soaked in old balsamic.
Finish: Medium. Caramel and raisins, and earthy smoke on the edges of my tongue. Not a tremendous development here with or without water.
Comments: Just lovely. The nose is really quite amazing. The palate is very good too but not quite as otherworldly as the nose. And, as is not unusual with very old whiskies, the finish is least intense. None of this is meant as a criticism. Whisky this good should not be quibbled over. Alas, it’s sold out and so I can’t make a ruinous decision (yay?). So very glad I got to try it though, and I might look to see if I can get a couple more samples of it.
Rating: 91 points.