Here is another young Ledaig. This one is a year older and from a year earlier than yesterday’s bourbon cask from Maltbarn. I purchased this on spec after tasting the wonderful Signatory 9 yo from the same year and discovering that that one was sold out. This is from the same run of casks—900176 to the Signatory’s 900172—and my understanding is that Signatory is the source of van Wees’ casks as well. Odds were good, therefore, that it would be good as well; and if it’s even 80% as good I’ll be happy (it was cheaper than the Signatory was when it was available). Like the Signatory cask, this one has a very high abv (61.9%). I was reluctant at first to review the first pour—in my experience high abv whiskies can be quite “tight” when first opened, and particularly when from sherry casks)—but I did also want to follow the bottle over its full life and so decided to get some notes down: I compensated by airing it out for a long time.
Ledaig 10, 2004 (61.9%; van Wees; sherry butt 900176; from my own bottle)
Nose: A strong wave of peat and smoke right off the bat, inky at first and then more vegetal and organic (there’s a cereal note as well). A little hard to get much at full strength right off the top of the bottle. Ah yes, with a lot of time and air (>30 minutes) this is beginning to open up: sweeter notes of raisins mixed in with some orange peel; some dusty oak too and then some glazed, charred pork. Should open up further with some water. Indeed, there’s more fruit with water (a bit of apricot) and some shortbread and it’s generally much better integrated.
Palate: Ashy smoke up top followed by quite a bit of lemon and then salt. On the second sip there’s the charred meat from the nose and more sweetness. The smoke and lemon merge with each sip and there’s a slight chalkiness too. Quite drinkable despite the high strength but needs water. Yes, water knocks that chalky note out and rounds everything off very nicely: the citrus moves from lemon to orange, the smoke is less acidic and there’s greater sweetness; a bit of pepper too now.
Finish: Long. The ash and lemon and salt keep going. No new development as such. As on the palate with water and the finish gets longer still.
Comments: Well, this is not quite as good as the Signatory 10 yo but it’s very good indeed. Interestingly (or not), while water made the Signatory brighter on the palate, here it seemed to bring out more of the sticky notes—and water is necessary, I think. It must also be said that this was the first pour off the top of the bottle (though I did it give it a LOT of air and time). I know I’ll be coming back to this often (I have a second bottle in reserve) and I’ll be sure to report back. Anyway, great things seem to be happening with recent Ledaig distillate in sherry casks. I hope some of these casks are going to be allowed to reach a ripe old age: if so, I have a feeling these will prove to be legendary in another 15-30 years.
Rating: 88 points.