Here is another teenaged, sherried Ledaig. This was distilled a year before Wednesday’s 17 yo, 1998 from Cooper’s choice and is a year younger. And where that one was from a sherry butt (fill type unspecified), this was matured by Gordon & MacPhail in a refill sherry hogshead (and bottled for The Whisky Exchange). I opened my bottle a couple of months ago and it was quite rough to start. I’ve been drinking it down slowly and while it has mellowed a bit it’s still pretty aggressive on the peat front. Time now to finally record my notes (this is from the last quarter of the bottle).
Ledaig 16, 1997 (56.8%; Gordon & MacPhail for TWE; refill sherry hogshead #465; from my own bottle)
Nose: Strong vegetal peat to start with a bit of rubber and more than a bit of sulphurous sharpness. Below that there are sweeter notes of toffee and raisins. On the second sniff there’s more salt and a fair bit of iodine and ink as well. Stays salty as it sits but the sharp note takes a more acidic turn towards lime which gets more and more intense with time. With a lot more time the fruit is more pronounced and there’s a softer hint of apricot too now. With water the lime picks back up but the sweeter fruit is more intense than before below it; more toffee too now,
Palate: Much sweeter to start on the palate than you might expect from the above: it’s the raisins that arrive first and then a huge wave of ashy smoke comes crashing in behind it and takes over my mouth. On the second sip the acid and the salt are more discernible and there’s some cracked pepper too but this is all about extreme ashy smoke. With time the sharp note from the nose emerges here (though it’s very muted there now). Water pushes the ashiness back and emphasizes the fruit; still very smoky though.
Finish: Long. Ashy smoke and pepper and then a lot of salt and some lime. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is more extreme than the Cooper’s Choice 17 yo—they’re similar to start but this never mellowed quite as much that one did with time (though this is more balanced with water). That leads me to think that the Cooper’s Choice might have been from a first fill sherry cask, whose greater sherry influence might have sawed off the rougher notes of the spirit. And the smoke/peat here is far ashier and less vegetal (with time) than I usually associate with Ledaig. Anyway, this is quite good (and better with water).
Rating: 87 points. (I’d have had it closer to 85 when the bottle was first opened.)
My hand slipped as I was adding water to my pour of this tonight and quite a lot went in. It took it well below 46%, the whisky clouding up in the glass. And you know what? It tastes great! The rough, sharp notes are gone—the ashy peat and smoke are still there but they’re in perfect balance now with fruit and toffee. If you have a bottle of this on your shelf, unopened or opened, I really recommend experimenting with water.