Distilleries can often be pigeon-holed into a “style” of whisky which defines their brand and creates a common theme throughout their entire range.
Take Glenfarclas and Aberlour as examples that mature practically all of their bottlings in ex-sherry casks. The spirit produced by both distilleries is particularly robust and well suited to sherry but does not mature well in ex-bourbon, especially in the case of Aberlour. There’s a basic clash of flavours that doesn’t lend itself to an enjoyable drinking experience.
Other distilleries are more diverse in their maturation, such as Glenmorangie or Springbank who both experiment with several cask finishes, and many more that use varying levels of peat for different bottlings. Ardbeg have a wide range of peat levels in their range, as do Talisker and Highland Park, although none of those examples particularly break out of their definitions as “heavily peated” or “lightly peated” house styles.
There are a few distilleries that take things a step further however, and create peated versions of their malts which are so different that they warrant a name and brand of their own. Bruichladdich has Port Charlotte, Springbank has Longrow, and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull make a peated bottling known as Ledaig (pronounced Le-chig), the 10 year old version of which is the subject of this review.
Standard offerings from Tobermory tend to have a woody, fruity, spicy nature more in common with the traditional “Highland” style of Scotch. Those old definitions of regional character are really becoming less and less relevant these days, as distilleries all over the place are experimenting in order to find something “new” to sell. Balvenie distillery is another great example with their yearly Peat Week release, a fantastic 14 year old peated whisky that I’ll be reviewing in the next few weeks.
The man who sold me my bottle of Ledaig 10 described the nose as “like a fire in a tyre factory”, and I can definitely see where he was coming from! There’s deep, sooty smoke with an unmistakable rubber note in there. There’s a really nice over-ripe banana aroma, and the peat is cigar-like and ashy, with water bringing a lighter, TCP note. This is proper peated whisky, no mistake.
The palate has a minerality to it, with a good helping of coastal saltiness and some lemon and lime. There’s icing sugar sweetness and water brings lemon sherbet with a background of light cereal notes. The peat is sharper on the palate and present throughout.
That mineral note continues through to the finish, which is medium-long and sees the return of the rubber taste from the nose.
It’s a big, meaty dram that contains some challenging and attention-grabbing flavours, and one that’s really going to be appreciated by those who already know they like their peaty whiskies. It also takes water really well, and it’s worth drowning a dram or two just to see the full range of flavours involved. There’s some dirty funk to it that brings home the reason that Tobermory chose to name it something else entirely, because that’s exactly what it is.