On a brisk evening in May the Malt Nuts gathered for what was a potentially brutal night; we had 11 cask strength, heavily sherried, Ledaigs lined up for the evening. If you’re not familiar with Ledaig here’s the one second tour: It’s Peated Tobermory.
At the end of every distilling season, before the shut down for a bit to clean all the distilling equipment, Tobermory does a few runs of heavily peated malt. The reason they do it at the end of the “season” is so the peat doesn’t contaminate their typical production which is an unpeated style of Scotch.
As per usual there was good food, good conversation and a bunch of blinded whiskies for us to go through. The rounds broke out like this
Malt Nuts: Heavily Sherried Ledaig Rounds
- Round 1: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs that have been part of other tastings
- Round 2: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs 16 & 17 years ~55%
- Round 3: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs Gordon and Macphail face off
- Round 4: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs 2005 Distilled face off (+1 ’04)
And with that… on to the tasting!
Round 1: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs that have been part of other tastings
1A: Exclusive Malts Ledaig 10 years (05-15): 56.6% – Hogshead
- Nose: Char, cocoa, dark fruit, nuts, plastic, oily and peaty.
- Palate: Sherry, peat, dark fruit, nuts, plastic and cinnamon.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, dark fruit, plastic and cinnamon.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Ok. Nothing special about it.
1B: The Ultimate Ledaig 7 years (09-17): 60.1% – Hogshead
- Nose: Cinnamon, malt, butter, nutmeg, peat and soap.
- Palate: Dried orchard fruit, malt, butter, cinnamon, peat and plastic.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, plastic, dark fruit, cinnamon and soap.
- Overall: C+ (77-79)
Wow, ok the first round was not off to a good start and by the end of the night, I was even less thrilled about these first ones than I was trying them at the beginning. Water, air and later tasting them next to bigger better competition didn’t do them any favors.
Round 2: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs 16 & 17 years ~55%
2A: Cooper’s Choice Ledaig 16 years (2000-2017): 55.5% – Sherry Cask
- Nose: Orchard fruit, spice, citric acid, bacon, plastic and Strawberry Necco.
- Palate: Dark fruit, peat, citric acid, bacon, plastic and Strawberry Necco.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, citric acid and cinnamon.
- Overall: B (83-86) Big, spicy, heady and only lightly sulfured. Water makes it come across juicier and more sugary sweet with a bit of Honey Nut Cheerios making an appearance.
2B: Exclusive Malts Ledaig 17 years (97-14): 54.9% – Sherry Cask
- Nose: Butter, cinnamon, citric acid, plastic, smoke and sulfur.
- Palate: Dark fruit, butter, cinnamon, citric acid, peat, plastic and orchard fruit.
- Finish: Long -> Strawberry shortcake, butter and cinnamon.
- Overall: B (83-86) Good, spicy and oily with some sulfur and an overall even sweetness. A touch of pepper comes out with water.
This was a better round than 1 and overall it felt like things were going in a better direction and we had yet to hit a major sulfur bomb, which is always a strong possibility when you’re dealing with sherried Ledaig.
Round 3: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs Gordon and Macphail face off
3A: Gordon & Macphail Cask Strength Ledaig 13 years (2000-14): 56.9% – “Oak” Cask
- Nose: Sulfur, cinnamon, malt, smoke, dark fruit, rubber, strawberry frosting and cocoa.
- Palate: Sherry, cinnamon, sulfur, malt, char, nuts, smoke and leather.
- Finish: Long -> Strawberry frosting, butter, cinnamon oil and peat.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Woah… this is so good. So much richness and depth happening here, now we’re talking! Water just evens things out but doesn’t really enhance it much.
3B: Gordon & Macphail Cask Strength Ledaig 11 years (2004-16): 56.9% – Refill Sherry Hogshead
- Nose: Butterscotch, strawberry frosting, peat, vanilla and citric acid.
- Palate: Peat, butterscotch, cinnamon, strawberry, vanilla and cocoa.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, cinnamon, strawberry frosting, birthday cake and wax
- Overall: B+ (87-89) This one was just weird. It’s a-typical, it’s wacky and I like it. Kinda like cotton candy meets birthday cake that explodes with banana taffy and Nilla Wafers with water. Odd… so odd.
Round 4: Heavily Sherried Ledaigs 2005 Distilled face off (+1 ’04)
4A: Signatory Cask Strength Ledaig 9 years (05-15): 56.8% – 1st Fill Sherry Butt
- Nose: Buttered popcorn, brown sugar, dark fruit, peat, plastic and licorice.
- Palate: Peat, dark fruit, strawberry Necco, brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Finish: Long -. Peat, cinnamon, menthol and dried strawberry
Overall: B+ (87-89) Good, sweet, dark and a touch malty. Complex and enjoyable.
11-08-2005 – 08-25-2015 #900146
4B: Signatory Cask Strength Ledaig 11 years (05-17): 57% – 1st Fill Sherry Butt
- Nose: Sulfur, buttered popcorn, caramel, coffee, burnt plastic and more sulfur.
- Palate: Burnt popcorn, sulfur, leather, caramel, toffee, peat, pepper and dark fruit.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, cinnamon, strawberry and tannic oak.
Overall: B- (80-82) This one bordered on a C+ for me and shows a stark difference between single casks distilled on the same day, What a difference a cask makes.
11-08-2005 – 05-26-17 #900159
4C: Signatory Cask Strength Ledaig 11 years (05-16): 58% – 1st Fill Sherry Butt
- Nose: Sulfur, butterscotch, cinnamon, toffee, cake, peat and pine.
- Palate: Sulfur, dark fruit, sherry, butterscotch, peat, cinnamon, cake and pine.
- Finish: Long -> Dark fruit, sherry, pine, smoke and cinnamon.
Overall: B+ (87-89) Oooh, nice. Sulfur is noticeable, but it doesn’t dominate and adds a nice dimension to the whisky. The piney character is a bit weird and makes it feel a bit meaty overall, but I enjoyed it thoroughly… much more than its sister cask above.
11-08-05 – 11-22-16 #900160
4D: The Single Malts Of Scotland Ledaig 11 years (05-16): 56.8% – Sherry Butt
- Nose: Sherry, cinnamon, peat, toffee, butter and cake.
- Palate: Sulfur, sherry, cinnamon,toffee, coffee cake and peat.
- Finish: Long -> Peat, sweetness and spice.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Weirdly interesting, I started out feeling “just ok” about it, but as it opened up I started to like it more and more. By the end of the night, I loved it.
4E: The Ultimate Ledaig 10 years (04-15): 61.9% – Sherry Butt
- Nose: Buttery, touch meaty, pecans, sulfur, spice, brown sugar, peat and pine.
- Palate: Herbal, burnt essence, pecans, sulfur, peat and spice.
- Finish: Long -> Herbal, smoke, sugar, peat and pine.
- Overall: B (83-86) On the higher end of the B scale, the sweetness almost completely overpowers everything. Stops just shy, but comes close.
This round was super interesting with 4A – 4C all having been distilled on the same day and then being only a few cask apart. This is one of the best “cask variance” side-by-sides I’ve ever done. Then you add in the SMoS release, also an 05 distilled in Nov or Dec, and it makes for an insanely fun experience.
Ledaig always feels unfinished and raw to me, but in a good way. It’s one of those defining characteristics you either love or hate about it. I like it, it’s always funky and a bit sulfury which I enjoy so I almost always end up digging Ledaig on some level.
Till next time, cheers!