Age: 18 years old
Describing a whole range of whiskies as wonderfully peated is sure to raise some expectations. Yet Tobermory distillery from the Isle of Mull told no word of a lie when they slapped this label on their range of Ledaigs. While the lively 10 year old is a great bargain, Ledaig has also released some excellent older bottlings lately. These include the sumptuous 19 year old Oloroso Cask and the alluring Dùsgadh. But today’s headline act is Ledaig 18 year old. Bottled at the customary 46.3% and matured in casks that previously held sherry, this Ledaig is produced in small batches. This particular batch is No. 02, but fortunately a new batch has been released since, pointing at Ledaig 18’s commercial success. This bottling comes in an elegantly designed wooden box, making it a great gift. Trust me though, give Ledaig 18 a taste and you’ll agree you’d rather not part with this whisky…
Colour: Coppery golden
Nose: Meaty and medicinal in equal measure, with aromas of kelp and barbecued lamb. Despite the smoky overture it’s clear this is not your standard Ledaig, as fragrant sherry oak mingles with heather honey and a whiff of liquorice. A slightly herbal character rounds off what is an incredibly rich nose, with perfumes that are almost best described as dense. This promises to be quite a dram…
Palate: Intense yet refined, with a luxurious, oily texture. The European oak offers distinguished woody notes and lush red berries. All is permeated by an ever-present peat reek, along with grilled seafood and a hint of tar. This is a fiery Ledaig and it isn’t all peat fuelled, with plenty of chilli and cracked black peppercorn. I absolutely love it!
Finish: Long and lasting, with an aftertaste that just keeps on giving. Ledaig 18 turns on the seaside charm one last time, as smoked kippers fade away into dark chocolate and peated barley.
Verdict: Ledaig 18 is like a liquid barbecue: exquisitely meaty and smoky. And while the peat doesn’t leave you alone for one moment, it’s never intrusive. Nor does it make this whisky one-dimensional, quite the contrary! The phenols and sherry flavours fuse together effortlessly, pushing each other towards ever greater heights. Whereas European oak has a tendency to smooth out smoky notes, here it hasn’t tamed the medicinal Ledaig character one bit. Nor has age for that matter.
Is this dram expensive for an 18 year old whisky? Perhaps, but it’s quality that counts, not age. And on the quality front, this Ledaig is all you could wish for. To me at least, Ledaig 18 is a truly great whisky that can easily rub shoulders with some of the best Islay heavyweights. As a self-confessed peat head, that’s about the highest praise I can give this whisky.