Ledaig 10 year old, 13 year old Amontillado and 18 year old


Think of Scottish Islands that produce whisky and there are likely a few that instantly trip of the tongue. Islay probably being the most famous with it's peat monsters such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, Skye with its famous Black Cuillin mountain range and the equally famous Talisker distillery. Jura is infamous for all the wrong whisky production reasons and further afield in Orkney Highland Park may well spring to mind.

Hidden behind those famous Hebridean cousins of Islay and Jura is another island with a long, long tradition of whisky production and one that is much less well known, the Isle of Mull and it's Tobermory distillery.

The village of Tobermory is one of those impossibly pretty harbour villages located near the entrance of the Sound of Mull. The village was established in 1788 as a fishing port and is today the capital of the Isle of Mull with a population of around 1,000 people, nearly a third of the islands population.

Distilling soon followed with John Sinclair founding Tobermory distillery in 1798. Like a lot of distilleries in Scotland Tobermory went through many peaks and troughs with closures, reopening's and changes in ownership. In 1972 the distillery is bought by a Liverpool based shipping company and the sherry producer Domecq when it is renamed Ledaig Distillery. The name Ledaig harked back to the days of John Sinclair who, when starting the distillery was looking to lease land to build on known as Ledaig or 'Safe Haven' in English. This is short lived as the distillery files for bankruptcy and again closes in 1975. 

1979 sees new owners and the formation of the Tobermory Distillers Ltd company as well as the recommencing of whisky production. In 1982 some of the warehouses are sold of to build flats which has implications down to this day as no maturation occurs onsite. 1993 sees Burn Stewart take control of the distillery before it's current owners, Distell Group Ltd, purchased the distillery in 2013. Distell also own Bunnahabhain and Deanston distilleries.

The Ledaig core range consists of three expressions that are all peated to around 30-40ppm. The first is the Sinclair Series Rioja Cask which I've yet to try. It's matured in ex-bourbon casks before a finish in Spanish Rioja casks and is no age statement. It's rrp is £40 but can usually be founder for less.

The next expression is the 10 year old which uses peated concerto barley in the mashbill and I believe is matured only in ex-bourbon barrels. This is bottled at 46.3% abv, is natural colour and non chill filtered and costs around £47 but again can often be found cheaper.

Lastly is the 18 year old. This has been matured in ex-bourbon casks for 16 years before another two years of maturation in sherry casks. Again it's bottled at 46.3% abv, is natural colour and non chill filtered. This has an rrp of £99 but can be found cheaper from various retailers. I believe I paid £90 from memory.

The third bottle I'm looking at today (but second in the review.....sorry, I decided to go from youngest to oldest in the review proper) is the limited edition 13 year old Amontillado Sherry Finish.

An Amontillado sherry begins as a fino with a cap of flor yeast limiting its exposure to the air. A cask of fino is considered to be amontillado if the layer of flor fails to develop adequately or is intentionally killed by additional fortification. Without the layer of flor, amontillado must be fortified to approximately 17.5% alcohol so that it does not oxidise too quickly. After the additional fortification, Amontillado oxidises slowly and gains a darker colour plus a richer flavour than fino.

So what will Amontillado bring to the maturation party? Amontillado is characterized by nutty aromas, tobacco, saltiness, aromatic herbs, dried fruit & a meaty character.

The Amontillado Sherry Finish was released in 2017 I believe and I paid £58 for my bottle from Fairley's Wines here in Coleraine. It was bottled at 59.2% abv and was of course non-chill filtered and natural colour.

Ledaig 10 year old 46.3% abv

Nose: A pungent and immediately engaging nose - coastal bonfires, brined lemons, sea spray, wet lobster pots. Flaked almonds, vanilla custard. Peppermint. Sweet malt. Iodine and burning pine branches.

Palate: A sweet, oily arrival. Honey followed by sweet peat, brine and fresh pineapple slices. Pears too. Plenty of vanilla and fudge. Some pepper heat along with anise. Bacon lardons and lemon bon bons. A little chalkiness towards the end.

Finish: Medium length with drying ash, salt, citrus and warming pepper heat

Score: 7 out of 10

Ledaid 13 year old Amontillado Finish 59.2% abv

Nose: Cheese quavers! Green olives in brine. hot roast pork. Buttered popcorn with candied peanuts and double cream. A farmyard note with fresh tobacco, cold smoke and lemon zest. Some melon as well as oak chips and maple cured bacon.

Palate: Smiths Bacon Fries. Caramel. Candied citrus leading into thick smoke and a white pepper kick. Maritime saltiness, dry fried mushrooms and toasted hazelnuts. Peanut brittle. Golden sultanas, heather honey and bonfire ash.

Finish: Medium length with a mix of citrus, peppery heat and earthy, sweet peat.

Score: 8 out of 10

Ledaig 18 year old 46.3% abv

Nose: Even after 18 years the peat is quite forceful. Tar and smouldering wood. Brine, smoked cheese and wet earth. Honey, chocolate crumb, black liquorice and orange oil. Peanuts, stone orchard fruit with cranberries and garden mint too.

Palate: A little thin feeling but that peat from the nose is just as apparent on the palate. Sweet peat, malt, sea spray and salted caramel. A mild sultana note with sweet white grapes and apricot. Some minty chocolate too with toasted hazelnuts. A little ginger towards the end too.

Finish: Disappointingly short - sure there's a bit of alcohol warmth but flavours of caramel, lime and smoked oysters disappear very quickly.

Score: 5 out of 10

Overall: The short version is 'two clinkers and one a bit so so'. 

I love the 10 year old. This should be on every shelf of those that profess to love smoky drams. I'd encourage you to pick a bottle up. It easily goes toe to toe with Ardbeg 10 and frankly puts Laphroaig 10, Talisker 10, Caol Ila 12 and Bowmore 12 in their place. Islay isn't the only realm of peat, look a little further afield both geographically and brand wise and prepare to be impressed.

The 13 year old Amontillado Finish was a funky little number. Lots going on, really engaging and at the price thoroughly deserving of an 8. The tasting notes probably sound a bit mad but that's because they were. Sadly in todays market place of generic, solid drams whiskies like this are few and far between. I'd also wager if this was released today you could add another £100 to the price judging by Distell's pricing policy of late.

The 18 year old promised so much and sadly felt flat. It's a grand enough whisky but for the money I'd expect a lot more. This was shared amongst my whisky group and no one really felt it was anything more than average. A shame but onwards and upwards, there's plenty more whisky out there to try.

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