When it comes to Tobermory’s peated expression, Ledaig, there are two main factions. Those who love ex-bourbon Ledaig and those who love Sherried Ledaig. There are of course those who just don’t like Ledaig, even in the whisky world, and the Malt Nuts think those folks are nuts…. well I do anyway. I can’t really speak for the whole group. I’m overthinking this intro.
We’ve done four other Tobermory/Ledaig tastings in semi-recent Malt Nuts history. The first was our Cask Strength Tobermory VS Ledaig tasting in 2016 and the other was the Ledaig Tasting Part 2 we did in 2017.
Both were a lot of fun, but things really got serious in our 2018 Heavily Sherried Ledaig tasting and our 2019 tasting of ex- Bourbon Ledaig. Both of which laid the groundwork for this head-to-head face-off to see which one reigns supreme amongst the Malt Nuts.
Before we get to the conclusion of this blind tasting, here’s how we broke it down.
- Round 1: Cut ex-Bourbon Ledaig
- Round 2: Cask Strength ex-Bourbon Ledaig
- Round 3: Cask Strength Sherried Ledaig
As a quick house-keeping note, right before the tasting, we did tell everyone to just combine round 1 and 2 into a single round to better gauge ex-Bourbon vs ex-Sherry. It didn’t affect the tasting, just letting you know.
Round 1: Cut ex-Bourbon Ledaig
1A: Specialty Drinks Time IV Ledaig 11 years: 48% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Honied dried fruit, smoke, candied nuts, malt, caramel and some smoke.
- Palate: Smoke, soap, peat, chalk. saline.
- Finish: Med -> Savory smoke and soap.
- Overall: (2.5 / 5) Sweet aroma, savory palate and a soapy finish that takes over with some water.
1B: Connoisseur’s Choice Ledaig 18 years: 46% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Baby vomit, plastic, overripe fruit, smoke and clay.
- Palate: Smoke, perfumy soap, fruit, char and lemon.
- Finish: Med -> Soooooap and smoke.
- Overall: (1 / 5) Soapy and a weird waxiness with a tad bit of coastal and farmy (manure) notes. Time and water bring out even more soap and it becomes eerily similar to the infamous Bowmore FWP note.
Round 2: Cask Strength ex-Bourbon Ledaig
2A: Archives Ledaig 10 years: 54.9% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Honey Nut Cheerios, minerality, smoke, lemon, honey, fruit.
- Palate: Minerally, spirity, smoke, Honey Nut Cheerios, dried fruit and soap.
- Finish: Med -> Fruity and soapy slightly smoky.
- Overall: (2.5 / 5) Water brings out a chemical note that’s reminiscent of an air freshener.
2B: Claxton’s Ledaig 9 years (07-17): 53.3% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Honey, vanilla buttercream frosting, smoke, sweet and oily.
- Palate: Honey, fruit, smoke, malt and soap.
- Finish: Med -> Soapy and smoke.
- Overall: (x / 5) Sweetly soap and smoky. It comes through super light and ethereal. Water adds some minerally notes.
2C: Whisky-Fassle Ledaig 10 years (08-18): 52.7% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Spirity, minerally, waxy, smoke, nutty and fruity.
- Palate: Buttercream frosting, spirity, minerally, waxy, smokey and fruity.
- Finish: Long -> Buttercream frosting, fruit and smoke.
- Overall: (3.5 / 5) Nice and sweet and full. Lots of sweet and silky notes, it’s a good representation of ex-Bourbon Ledaig.
2D: Daily Dram Croftengea 12 years (06-18): 51.6% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Warm fruity sweetness and a bit of smoke and honey.
- Palate: Honied fruit, waxy vanilla, spice, minerality and soap.
- Finish: Long -> Smoky soap
- Overall: (3 / 5) Nice and fruity at the outset, but as it opens it gets a bit of sulfur along with the soap and somehow… it kinda works.
2E: Golden Cask Ledaig 9 years (05-15): 61.3% – ex-Bourbon
- Nose: Minerally, coastal, vanilla, citrus peels, spice, smoky and waxy.
- Palate: Oily, fruity and honey-sweet with smoke, citrus and dried apples.
- Finish: Long -> Sweetly fruity and smoky.
- Overall: (4 / 5) Wow, this is good. Of all the ex-Bourbon casks it’s the only one that didn’t have a hint of soap… and I love that about it.
The Mix: I blended all of these together in, roughly, equal parts as I was going through them again for the notes and on the aroma a deep caramel and dried apples profile came up along some smoke and roasted malt – the soap seemed lighter in the mix, but still noticeable.
The palate was the exact opposite and the soap charged through wrecking the more subtle honey, fruit, malt and dark sweet notes. The finish is purely soapy smoke. I’m now wishing I hadn’t dumped the rest of 2E into this 🙁
Round 3: Cask Strength Sherried Ledaig
- Nose: Sweet bacon, honied malt, vanilla, smoke, cherry cough syrup and toffee.
- Palate: Same as aroma with some added peppery notes.
- Finish: Long -> Sweet and smoky.
- Overall: (4 / 5) Rich full palate with complex fruit and darkly sweet and smoky notes. Love it.
- Nose: Funky rich dark fruit, smoke and roasted malt with citrus, cocoa and sulfur notes.
- Palate: Waxy dark fruit, smoke, malt, roasted nuts soap and sugary sweetness.
- Finish: Long -> Smoky, dark fruit leather and soap.
- Overall: (2.5 / 5) Big leathery whisky with funky undertones and a light touch of soap that grows as it opens but never takes over… though it tries.
3C: Signatory Ledaig 11 years (05-17): 57% – ex-Sherry
- Nose: Charcoal, sweet dark fruit, smoke, buttercream frosting, citrus candy and malt.
- Palate: Smoke, roasted nuts, syrupy fruit, cocoa, coffee and a light herbal note.
- Finish: Long -> Grilled fruit and chipotle peppers.
- Overall: (3.5 / 5) This has a sweetness to it that reminds me of junk food at a county fair. Oddly nice.
3D: Ledaig 13 years: 59.2% – Amontillado Finish
- Nose: Brown sugar BBQ smoke, buttercream, butterscotch and dried cherries.
- Palate: Honey graham, sulfur, candied dark fruit, smoke and ash.
- Finish: Long -> Sweet and smoky, fades to buttered popcorn jelly beans.
- Overall: (3 / 5) Not fully integrated, there is an earthy “human” quality to it.
3E: Single Malts of Scotland Ledaig 14 years (05-19): 55.4% – ex-Sherry
- Nose: Circus peanuts, citrus pith, waxy strawberry taffy and smoke.
- Palate: Citrus, char and brutal sweetness, light smoke and orange wafer cookies.
- Finish: Long -> Circus peanuts, candy and fruit.
- Overall: (2 / 5) Opens to some light herbal notes and a candy sweetness that triggers thoughts of fruity lollipops and those foamy Circus Peanuts.
3F: Single Cask Nation Ledaig 13 years: 57.1% – ex-Sherry NDP
- Nose: Deep heavy dark fruity sweetness, charred nuts, oak, sulfur, smoke, malt and leather.
- Palate: Oak and leather dominate but retains all the notes from the aroma.
- Finish: Long -> Dried dark fruit and smoke and jalapeños.
- Overall: (4 / 5) This is quintessential sherried Ledaig. It’s heavy, it’s darkly fruity and smoky and pepper spicy.
3G: Signatory Ledaig 11 years (05-16): 58% – ex-Sherry
- Nose: Medicinal, sulfury, manure, plasticy and smoky.
- Palate: Dark and fruity Medicinal, farmy, cloying candy, plasticy and smoky.
- Finish: Long -> Smoke, fruit and cherry cough syrup.
- Overall: (2 / 5) Fruity malty with light burnt notes that bring out a bit of medicinal character.
The Mix: Like with the bourbon round I mixed, roughly, equal parts of each of the ex-Sherry Ledaigs from this round. Aroma is mostly dark fruit, smoke, buttercream frosting and citrus with just hints of herbal and smoke notes. Palate runs the same path with just a light dusting of soap picking up at the end which keeps on running through the fruity smoky finish.
The Big Blend: Since I wasn’t a huge fan of either of the two blends, but definitely was of some of the component parts, I mixed them all and… I wish I hadn’t. The soapy notes from the ex-Bourbon round permeated the whole thing.
I was hoping the funky sherry and sulfur notes from the ex-sherry (which made up about 60% of the blend) would overpower, or at least even out, the soap notes. But that’s a big no. The ex-sherry profile is definitely there, but that soap… that freaking soap just keeps punching through.
As for the Malt Nuts as a whole. It seemed like the bulk were in favor of the ex-sherry Ledaig over the ex-bourbon. Which is exactly what I expected. We Malt Nuts love that peat n’ sweet profile.