Peated malts are unquestionably the hallmark of Islay’s whisky trade. They are what make the island famous and Scotch itself infamous. But, of course, not all peated malts are from Islay. A lot of Scotland’s distilleries have been investing substantial efforts for years now into investigating the effects of peat on their respective spirits. The sad fact of the matter is that ultimately many of the mainland’s peated malts are less than stellar examples of the style.
Ledaig, however, is nae from the mainland. It’s a single malt from the Tobermory distillery on the Hebridean Isle of Mull, just a short Northerly hop from Islay. A fairly sound leap of logic might suggest the peat make-up between the two islands would be quite similar. But would that give the whiskies a common ground (pun intended)? We’ll get there in a minute.
Tobermory the distillery was founded in Tobermory the village in 1798. At the time it was producing under the name of Ledaig, and only adopted the village name for its own appellation circa 1978 with another change of ownership and after some seriously long and silent years. Today the distillery is healthy and flowing, steadily producing its namesake malt (Tobermory, that is) for a good portion of the year and a moderately peated version called Ledaig (“Le-cheg”, for those more phonetically inclined) for the remainder. The Malt Madness website refers back to the Malt Whisky Yearbook putting this split at about 50-50 in terms of production time. A hefty portion of each distillate, however, is relegated to the murk of blending waters.
Ledaig 10 is a bit of an oddball. In many ways it is close to an Islay malt, but maybe like one that has been maturing away in oil drums in a shopyard or something. Its personal appeal is probably rooted in a mix of affinity for a familiar style of peat and an appreciation for an utterly unique profile. Those looking for a more ‘smooth’ style of single malt may want to look elsewhere. This is, however, a hell of a variant on peated whisky and certainly one that belongs in the canon.
And just for shits and giggles, can I point out that there’s a wee hamlet on the Isle Of Mull – maybe 7 or 8 miles from the village of Tobermory – by the name of Calgary? That pastoral setting was actually the root source for the name of this bustling Canadian metropolis I now call home. Cool stuff.
Oh yeah…Ledaig, if you’re curious, is Gaelic for ‘safe haven’, and in this guy’s humble opinion a much better name than Tobermory (itself a reference to ‘Mary’s well’).
Nose: Smells young-ish. A fairly up front hit of diesel and hot rubber. Peat and smoke. Seashore saltiness and fresh pepper. Quite dry and ashy. A very charred meat backbone. Some grainy notes. A hint of wine and burnt lemon peel. Linseed oil and smoked tea. A farmy aroma that reminds of the coastal farmlands on Islay. This is an almost industrial smelling dram, and it actually rather appeals to me for that.
Palate: Arrives rather feistily (is that a word?). Billowy smoke. Fennel. Oily and salty. Rather sweeter than expected, with some apple notes. Like cut apple with a squeeze of lemon juice (as we’re wont to do to keep it from browning). Grassy and grainy too. Or maybe that’s more like a tea note. Assertive and unique.
Thoughts: Probably not for everyone (not even all the peat lovers), but it works for me. And it may just be the power of suggestion (both being Burn Stewart malts and all), but this does remind a bit of young peated Bunnahabhain.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt