Ledaig 20 (Douglas Murdoch)

On Monday I had a review of a 37 yo Strathisla distilled in 1967. Today’s Ledaig is not quite as old in terms of maturation but was distilled not too many years later. The distillation year is not specified on the bottle this sample came from but it is said to be either 1972 or 1973. On what basis it is said to be from one of those years I’m not sure but it’s said by people who know far more about these things than I do. I’m not sure who the bottler, Douglas Murdoch is/are either but one sign that this was bottled before the single malt boom got under way is that it is at 40%. In the early 1990s I don’t think cask strength whisky was as fetishized as it is now and better known outfits like Gordon & Macphail were also releasing older whiskies at that strength (and in G&M’s case continued to do so for many years after). Anyway, if this is indeed a 1972 or 1973 distillation I am hopeful that it will be of a quality similar to that of the only other Ledaig 1972 I’ve had: this excellent 40 year old from Alambic Classique. Let’s see how it goes.

Ledaig 20 (40%; Douglas Murdoch; from a bottle split)

Nose: A wonderful melange of pipe tobacco, fig jam, rosewood, reduced orange liqueur and then a dry note that starts off at limestone and ends up at brine; ashy smoke curling around it all. With a drop or two of water the pipe tobacco turns to chocolate and toffee.

Palate: Much smokier but everything else is here too, just more reserved. The texture is thin, alas, and it doesn’t pack the intense punch you’d want. More tarry and more phenolic on the second sip with carbon paper and pencil lead mixed in there. As it sits there’s a lot of cracked pepper. With more time the pipe tobacco does begin to pop out but the fruit from the nose stays there. Let’s see what a couple of drops of water do. Less tarry with water and there’s some orange peel.

Finish: Long. The smoke builds and builds in intensity (darker and tarrier). At the very end my mouth tastes like a well-used ashtray. As on the palate with water.

Comments: The nose is glorious, the palate a bit underpowered by comparison. Just wish more of the richer notes had come through there as well. This is not on the level of the Alambic Classique but it’s also half the age. A little more depth on the palate and this would have been up in the low 90s with its older sibling. As is, I think it stops just short.

Rating: 89 points.


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