There is nothing like a mature and complex peated Malt on a chilly night in the cold time of the year – and I mean those fine old whiskies, not the pressure-cooked young ones we get swamped with these days. Mostly, the choice is coming down to an Islay-Malt or some rare Garioch, Brora or Talisker, and rightly so. Even one of those fine Japanese Single casks or an Ardmore would be ways to go.
However, one beauty has unjustly been forgotten – maybe because bottles are rarely seen: Ledaig, especially the ones distilled in 1972. Only few other whiskies offer such complexity paired with heavy peat – and high ‘drinkability’. The quality of the barley malt used at Tobermory/Ledaig was comparable to Talisker and Brora (same source) in that year and has been delivering equally stunning results. In my eyes, good 1972 Ledaigs rank up as high as some fine Ardbegs of this period. I would trade some Islay Malts of the 70ies any time for a nice Ledaig!
Unfortunately, more recent Ledaigs fail to reach the level of quality the proprietors achieved between 1972 (reopening) and 1975. One can already see a decline after 1972. Only the 1972s possess this elegant maritime character of salt, spices, iodine, tar, a hint of sulphur, peat and smoke along with peach, gorse, vanilla, and numerous other aromas in perfect balance. Later in 1974, the peat levels were decreased which made briny fruits come forth in the whiskies of this time. Nowadays, the leading aromas of this Mull Malt are farmyardy and vegetal with more peat again since the 90ies. But now Ledaig seems to be back: Recently there were a few great young Ledaigs, e.g. by Berry Bros & Rudd, real peat bombs. You should give those a try if you are into the described profile.
Having been a fan of Ledaig for quite a while now, I keep trying expressions of 1972 and the years after, although bottles are hard to get. The photo shows some of my 1972 Ledaigs (I added a few and have no recent picture), and some of them are not yet sampled or opened (e.g. the Moon Animal Series (soapy!), the black labeled G&M, etc.). The following list shows my personal favourites which I have tasted until now – and is, of course, open for discussion.
- 95 – Ledaig 18 yo 1972 (55,9%, James MacArthur, 75cl)
- 94 – Macnab 15yo (43%, Unknown Bottler, Unknown bottling year, 75cl, Rumoured to be Ledaig distilled in 1972)
- 94 – Tobermory (Ledaig) 1972/1995 (50%, Moon Import, ‚De Viris Illustribus‘)
- 94 – Ledaig 1972/1997 (49,8%, SMWS, 42.8)
- 93 – Ledaig 22yo 1972/1995 (51.3%, Cadenhead’s)
- 90 – Ledaig 32yo 1972/2005 (48,9%, Alambic Classique Coll., Sherry Butt – same content as Curious Birds-Bottling by Bernd Wolf)
- 90 – Ledaig 1974/1992 (56%, OB)
- 90 – Ledaig 1972 (40%, G&M Conn. Choice, old cream label miniature, different ages)
- 89 – Ledaig 14yo 1973 (Red Sestante label, 56,3% – watch out, this one exists with 40% as well)
- 89 – Ledaig 31yo 1973/2004 (54,8%, Chieftain’s Choice Sherry Hogshead 1710)
- 89 – Ledaig 32yo 1972/2004 (48,5%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Butt Finish)
- 89 – Ledaig 30yo 1974/2005 (48,7%, Signatory, Sherry Cask 3223)
- 89 – Ledaig 1973/1995 (53,4%, Cadenhead)
- 88 – Ledaig 32yo 1973/2005 (45%, Chieftain’s Choice, 240 btl.)
- 87 – Ledaig 1974/2000 (40%, G&M Conn. Choice, map label)
- 87 – Ledaig 1974/1992 (43%, OB)
- 86 – Ledaig 30yo 1974/2005 (48%, Signatory, 204 btl.)