Ledaig over the past few years has become quite possibly my favourite peated whisky. The 10 and the 18 year old are both excellent value for money in today’s market and deliver high quality to boot. I have also had a couple of interesting independent bottlings, and none of them have disappointed thus far, even when they have appeared in blind challenges when I didn’t know it was Ledaig.
There are some telltale signs that characterise Ledaig single malts, although that’s not to say you will find them in every single bottling. A burnt rubber note is one that I always look out for, and is particularly noticeable in the core range with the 18 year old, but I have also found it amongst some independent bottlings I have tasted. This is likely derived from the new make spirit, where the distiller is pushing into the feints a little. You often get aromas and flavours of the bbq, combined with a medicinal note you often find in Islay whiskies, which is not too surprising, when you consider the malted barley they use comes from Port Ellen’s maltings. Often you get farmyard notes, and even at times cheese, which is one you have to experience to appreciate, as it doesn’t sound quite as appealing on paper as the reality is when experienced. An oily texture in the mouth is another delightful addition to the profile of the whisky. There’s plenty to be found in a glass of Ledaig, and that is something worth celebrating.
Needless to say my fondness for Tobermory distillery’s peated expressions meant there was little hesitation in picking up a bottle of the non-age statement Rioja cask finish I am reviewing here, particularly when it can be picked up for £30 or less. It doesn’t carry an age statement, but with Distell’s favoured 46.3% abv and no chill-filtering or additions of colour, we won’t worry about that too much at this price point. Youthful peated spirit often works well too. It is matured initially in ex-bourbon casks, before being finished in Spanish Rioja wine casks.
Ledaig Sinclair Series Rioja Cask Finish – Review
Nose : That smoky rubber note synonymous with Ledaig is certainly there, along with barbecued beef brisket and a minerality and salinity that makes it difficult not to be transported to images of seaside rock pools. There are jammy strawberries and slightly sour raspberries, which compliment each other really well, together with first aid box, furniture polish and farmyard silage.
Palate : An oily texture with an initial hit of garden leaf fire smoke and earthy minerality, before the smoke element turns increasingly towards ashen. There is the medicinal first aid box thing again, and it is more pronounced than it was on the nose. The jammy red fruits are also making a reappearance, with the sweet and sour elements playing nicely together again. We get more of the barbecue flavours, along with drying and tannic sensations from the Rioja casks, but not in a way which harms the experience; there’s a good balance. There is also a warming peppery spice and menthol.
In the finish the ashen smoke comes to the fore again, as do the fruits and medicinal notes. A creaminess at the back end is a nice addition too.
Conclusions : For the price point this is retailed at I find it difficult to fault. £33-£35 appears to be the normal price, but you do regularly see it dip just below £30 if you are prepared to shop around. It will hold a regular place on my whisky shelf for as long as the quality and value remains. I have spent around 5 months with this bottle, and I would say it gets even better for a couple of months of oxidisation.
It contains everything I love about Ledaig, along with the lovely jammy fruit notes from the wine casks. The nose and palate have a similar profile, but the volume levels are different. Everything is well balanced, and I think even the drinkers with a dislike for wine finishes might be surprised by this, as the spirit has held up really well to those casks.
Score : 7/10
Three Word Review : Smoky. Meaty. Fruity.
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
ABV : 46.3%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : Ex-Bourbon casks with a Rioja wine cask finish
Region : Island
Colour : Rusty Red