One of the whiskies that jumped out at me when the Scotch Malt Whisky Society revealed the first of their November outturns was this 42.29 Marvellous maritime margaritas from Ledaig on the Isle of Mull.
This was the final dram of our recent Whisky Roundtable recording at the Members Rooms due to its peaty maritime nature and autumnal setting, it felt like the ideal way to end an enjoyable event. If you want to hear a live reaction to the dram then we start nosing and tasting it towards the end of the show at 159 minutes which you can just jump right into. If you prefer the medium of the written word, then please read on.
Ledaig is of course produced at Tobermory distillery and is growing in popularity with enthusiasts looking to seek out a reliable peated whisky that doesn’t come with a premium price tag. This SMWS release is bottled at 9 years of age and comes from an ex-bourbon barrel; perfect conditions for a youthful, vibrant peat experience. It’s no surprise given the current trend for peat that we’re seeing more official Ledaig’s such as the 18 year old Oloroso sherry finish and the 1996 Oloroso cask being released.
Just like Deanston distillery, there has been a turn around in fortunes for Tobermory. Owned by the Burns Stewart group since 1993, the quality of the peated spirit has improved immensely as well as the deployment of casks. It comes down to hard work, investment and skilled individuals across the group, which prompted the South African Distell group to pay £160 million for Burns Stewart recently, thereby acquiring Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory. Given Brown-Forman splashed out nearly £300 million for the trio of BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, the Distell acquisition seems like very canny business. Deanston is growing in reputation and Bunnahabhain is universally appreciated.
Whilst much of the Burns Stewart’s growing reputation for whiskies was governed by former Master Distillery Ian MacMillan who left in 2015 to play a part in Bladnoch’s revival. The baton has been passed to Kirstie McCallum, who as a former brand ambassador and blender herself, knows these distilleries very well. If anyone has met Kirstie then you’ll have witnessed her enthusiasm and passion for whisky; I’m looking forward to seeing what she has in store for us in the coming years.
For now we’re making do with this independent Ledaig, perhaps these bottlings will become more scarce as Tobermory only produces around 750,000 litres of spirit per year. Around half of this is the unpeated Tobermory with the remainder being Ledaig. That’s not a huge amount of whisky for a growing reputation whilst supporting their Black Bottle and Scottish Leader blended Scotch whiskies. Especially the latter, which comes in a variety of styles in foreign markets.
Enough of my speculation, how did this bottle shape up?
Colour: Pinot Grigio
Nose: a really mossy vibe laced with a coastal heritage. A musty brine with a medicinal edge and a sprinkling of sea salt. I’m actually thinking of dried driftwood, with some tangled seaweed around its worn branches. An oily almost buttery aspect invades with crushed almonds and the hint of a spent matchstick.
Taste: more of that mossy earthy quality across the palate and a salty mouthwash. A dash of citrus and more nuts takes us towards a very brief finish.
Overall: it ticks the peat requirement and is priced accordingly. The nose is the highlight as once the peat leaves your palate there isn’t much else and it fades rather all too quickly. Sadly this has you reaching for another; just lacking that real depth, but at 9 years of age its to be expected and enjoyed for what it is.