Ledaig Whisky (pronounced Led-Chig)
Peated whisky distilled at Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull.
Founded: 1798 but with very sporadic production history.
Capacity: 1 million litres
Stills: 4. 2 wash and 2 spirit
1972-1975: Intense, oily, visceral peat. Dry, minerals, vibrant fruit and coastality.
When the distillery was re-opened after many years in 1972 it was actually named Ledaig however many casks were labelled as Tobermory also and almost all production in these years was peated. To this day whiskies from these years are still being bottled and they often betray the rich peat character of the distillate. Younger expressions bottled in the eighties are considered the greatest examples of Ledaig. Produced in an old style way, with slower fermentation and distillation methods, these bottlings are classics. Every bit as potent as many Islay whiskies from the same time, they balance intense peat flavours with beautiful coastal and fruit laden undercurrents. They are expensive but well worth seeking out. Sadly the distillery was closed again in 1975.
1979-1993. Diminishing peat, salty, often quite fruity but sometimes excessively honeyed and cardboardy.
The distillery was re-opened in 1979 and distilled two separate spirits, peated Ledaig and un-peated Tobermory. These years, as for all distilleries, were years of change. Production methods were rapidly modernising, paving the way for the mass production of malt whisky. The character of Ledaig from the late seventies and early eighties can often contain some very attractive tropical and green fruit character laced with some peat oils and delicate smokiness. The best examples of this are in the old red label 20yo and blue label 15yo official bottlings. However the peat is very variable. By the end of the eighties the peat levels were incredibly inconsistent and it is from these years that the most frustrating Ledaigs can come. Many bottlings can seem almost unpeated, showing more in the way of spiciness, coastal characters and honey. They can be very flavoursome whiskies but they often lack something.
Mid 1990s –present day: Re-instigation of higher peat levels, dryer, smoky, grassy and salty. The modern era of production at Tobermory has seen an intensification of the peat levels in Ledaig, this is most apparent in the current 10yo bottling. However the whisky is markedly thinner in texture and mouthfeel, it does not have the oiliness that it once possessed. However this is common with many modern whiskies. As these casks age we will see how the spirit develops but it is certainly more consistent than it has been for a long time and the rewarding peaty, island character intensity is back. Some recent young bottlings have in fact been immensely powerful and of fantastic quality. Whatever happens Ledaig remains one of the most frustrating, yet oddly endearing characters in the whisky world.