Ledaig 10 v 18

Ledaig (pronounced Letch-ick) is the name for the heavily peated (30-40ppm) whiskies from the Tobermory distillery on the Isle Of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. It is the only whisky distillery on the island and is owned by the Distell group, which also owns Bunnahabhain on Islay and Deanston in Perthshire. The core range bottlings from each of these distilleries is bottled at 46.3% ABV, non-chill filtered and natural colour, which is great to see.

The 10 year old and 18 year old versions of Ledaig form the core range, with a non-age statement Rioja cask finish “Sinclair series” bottling released recently too, named after John Sinclair, who founded the distillery in 1798.

Back then the distillery was actually called Ledaig rather than Tobermory, with the Tobermory name first used in 1979. There were a series of lengthy periods throughout its history when it was closed, until Burn Stewart re-opened the distillery in 1993 and brought the Ledaig name back for it’s range of heavily peated whiskies in 2007. Burn Stewart were bought out by Distell in 2013 and the 18 year old was introduced to the Ledaig range in 2014.

The 10 year old is matured entirely in ex-bourbon casks, where as the 18 is matured in ex-bourbon, before being finished in sherry casks. The 10 currently retails for around £35-40 and the 18 for £70-80 a bottle in the UK.

Ledaig 10

Nose : A big hit of sweet confectionery peat smoke and band aids. Lovely and fruity with citrus lemon, orange, caramel, menthol mint and a hint of bitter chocolate.

Palate : Initial sweetness quickly turns towards bitter and peppery, but the sweet doesn’t disappear completely. Smoky and ashy like a mouthful of barbecue smoke. There is lots of sea salt, which builds on the palate. There is a juicy, fruitiness too with citrus fruits and a bit of an earthy dunnage warehouse vibe in the background. Lovely and coating mouthfeel.

Ledaig 18

Nose : Sweet and rich. Like a fire at a tyre yard with lots of smoky rubber. Juicy raisins, vanilla and brie with some Brannigan’s beef and mustard crisps (do they still make those?) and musty old socks. Does that all sound a little unpleasant? It really isn’t thankfully.

Palate : Sweet and fruity raisins and a slight sourness. Blackcurrents, campfire smoke, salty bacon, roasted hazelnuts, earth, muscavado sugar and some oak. More of that rubber from the nose is present on the palate too. The finish is lingering and bitter with the smoke continuing, as does the fruity notes and then a good amount of salt.

Conclusions : The 10 is certainly the lighter of the two both visually and on the palate, and the sherry finish on the 18 definitely has a big impact on the spirit.

The 10 would not be out of place on Islay, with an ashiness not dissimilar to an Ardbeg, which is no surprise when you consider both distilleries get their malted barley from the Port Ellen maltings on Islay and the peating levels are not too dissimilar. If you like a good hit of medicinal peat, then there aren’t many for the money that can beat it. I’d rate it slightly higher than the always excellent Ardbeg 10, which competes at a similar price point.

The 18 is a different beast. The smoke is less intense, as is often the case when a whisky has had a longer maturation, but it’s still very much present. It’s beautifully juicy and fruity with the blackcurrant particularly nice. The rubber notes could be off putting to some, but i’m a fan of more challenging flavours and it doesn’t completely take over, as there is plenty more going on in the glass. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some older whisky in this, as it certainly gives me that impression.

Both are excellent, but the 18 is vastly different to anything else I have tasted and has a wonderful complexity of flavours. I like unusual and different and it just edges the contest for me.

Scores : Ledaig 10 (8/10) Ledaig 18 (8.5/10)

Three word review Ledaig 10 : Ashy. Medicinal. Citrus

Three word review Ledaig 18 : Rich. Fruity. Smoky

Vital statistics

Ledaig 10
ABV : 46.3%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : Ex-bourbon casks
Region : Island
Colour : Gold
Bottling Code : 2191603L512:5720357
Barcode : 5029704217434

Ledaig 18
ABV : 46.3%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : Ex-bourbon casks with sherry cask finish
Region : Island
Colour : Rich Amber
Bottling Code : 2060905L514:0019343
Barcode : 5029704218059

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