Ledaig (pronounced 'li-chayg') is the name given to the 'richly' or 'intensely' or 'wonderfully' peated (seems like they're trying to avoid the word 'heavily') whisky produced at Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull, and while both brands are under-appreciated, they're producing some truly excellent whisky. All their expressions are bottled at 46.3% and above, all current expressions carry age statements, and all are non-chill filtered and naturally coloured. There aren't many distilleries around that tick all of those boxes! No watered-down entry-level expression, no fancy & expensive NAS or travel-exclusive bottlings, and while we're at it, there's no excessive marketing either. Great stuff.
Tobermory, as in the un-peated spirit from the distillery, can be a little divisive, particularly the sherry-finished 15-year old. Personally I'm a big fan, but some don't care for it. The peated Ledaig seems to be more popular, and is held in high regard by most who take the plunge and try it out. The entry-level 10-year old (reviewed here) is excellent value for money, and if you ask me is a real contender for Ardbeg 10's crown of best bang-for-your-buck peated whisky. But what we have here is a little different.
This is a 10-year old cask strength bottling of Ledaig from independent bottlers Signatory Vintage, which has been fully-matured in a first-fill sherry butt. Until recently, Signatory's bottlings have been hard to find in Australia, but The Whisky Company (the artist formerly known as Nippy Sweetie Whiskies) is now the official Australian importer, and things are looking much better already. Signatory are a family-owned independent bottler, who also own Edradour distillery in the Scottish Highlands, and you'll also find the independent bottler's warehouses and bottling plant adjacent to the distillery.
This bottling is from Signatory's 'Cask Strength Collection', and is a single cask, 10-year old Ledaig from cask number 900145, the afore-mentioned first-fill sherry butt, which yielded 576 bottles. It was distilled in November 2005, and was bottled in January 2016 at a cask strength of 54.6%, without chill filtration or added colouring. Something tells me this'll be fantastic!
It was quite reasonably priced on release at around $180 AUD, but unfortunately is totally sold out as far as I can see, at least for the time being. I didn't get a bottle either (sigh), but this review comes from a sample provided by a generous fellow whisky-geek. Let's find out exactly how badly I regret missing out, shall we?
Ledaig 10-year old (Signatory Vintage), 54.6%. Isle of Mull, Scotland.
Signatory Cask Strength Series. Single cask no. 900145, first-fill sherry butt, distilled 11/2005 and bottled 1/2016. Non-chill filtered, natural colour. 576 bottles.
Nose: Crisp, zesty coastal peat, sweet milky caramel with a pinch of salt. Sherry, with dried fruit and light spices. Very coastal as well. There's a little nip of alcohol, but not much at all for the age & strength.
Texture: Lovely. Medium-weight, no raw heat, well balanced.
Taste: Drier and more spicy peat now, some (mild) chilli milk chocolate. Brine, hot ash, then a wave of that milky salted caramel and a little dried fruit. Well balanced & delicious.
Finish: Medium-long length, Spicy, dried fruits and rich caramel. Still peaty as well, dry & crumbly peat now. Still briny and coastal as well.
Score: 4 out of 5.
Notes: Seriously, seriously good. Very impressive and very enjoyable! In fact I'd say it's one of the best younger independent bottlings I've tried to date, and it's great value for money to boot. Not quite a peat monster, but rather a well-balanced peated and sherried dram, which is very drinkable for the age and strength.
Ledaig is quickly becoming my favourite non-Islay peated whisky. Between the excellent-value 10-year old and delicious 18-year old official bottlings, and now this 10-year old cask strength independent bottling, they're doing excellent work. If you're a fan of the peaty side of life, and haven't yet tried a Ledaig, add it to your list and get to it. And from memory this is now the third Signatory bottling I've tried, and all have been very good quality. Let's hope there's more to come.
So yes, I really wish I had bought a bottle of this one. But it turns out all is not lost, Craig from The Whisky Company tells me he has some more stock of this bottling due in October. Hands off 'til I've gotten one!