Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Ledaig 10 year old

Nose.   There is a wonderful blended aroma of spice and peat.  If you are expecting a full on island malt, then you are in for a (potentially pleasant) surprise.  This is not the headful of TCP you might expect from an Islay, and it doesn’t have the grandeur and depth of peaty smokiness that you’ll find in a Talisker.    The nose is more of a lingering reminder of all things pleasantly medicinal.     A well cleaned hospital Ward, or maybe  the smell of a band-aid, the day after the accident.   And spicy.  Not in a tikka masala sort of a way, more of a peppery cloves and cardamom.   A nice wee Indian rice pudding to finish a meal, maybe.  Some tasting notes I’ve read talk of dried fruit and nuts.   I don’t sense that myself, but there is a festive clove-iness to the nose.  This is definitely a malt that Santa might take a wee snifter off when he’s doing his rounds.   This is a very mild island malt, an easy listening introduction to  the more peaty big brothers, and the nose also tells you straight away that this is no Speyside.   For those who find the Taliskers or the Bowmores too harsh, a few months on the Ledaig should warm up your taste buds nicely.  For the aroma, 3.5 out of 5.

Palate.  It's a very tingly malt.   And it’s not the alcohol content at 46.3%.  Even a wee splash of water still leaves your mouth dancing around with something that feels like a sherbet dip on the tongue.   There is a subtle combination here of mild peat, oak, and smoky bacon flavours, that mingle together perfectly.   This isn’t at all like sooking a peat.   This is more like a buttery smoked bacon sandwich, where the bacon has been slowly smoked over a fire topped with the oak sawdust gleaned from a varnished church pew that’s been lovingly planed down for the purpose. The early Ledaigs, and I'm thinking of the 4 year old from when production recommenced, of which one or two bottles have passed this way, had a weakness to them.   They were full on peat heavy, but left you feeling like you’d just had a nasty glass of water.   This is far more refined.  It doesn’t yet have the body that you would get on anything from a neighbouring island.  It still leaves you with that light wetness at the finish.  Again, maybe that lightness might make this the stepping stone into the more robust island malts.  I was tempted to say, because it sounds nice, that it’s  a Speyside with attitude.   But there’s nothing in Speyside that will leave your palette tingling like this.  It’s more like a Talisker on it’s holiday’s, off for a wee bit of fly casting and trying to blend in with locals.  For the tingly sensation on your first wee sip, another 3.5 out of 5

Finish.  The finish is where this 10 year old Ledaig excels,   Earlier Ledaigs left you wondering if you’d picked up the TCP bottle by mistake, dulled your taste buds for a few days and ripped out the lining of your throat.   Good for fighting a cold, not so good for savouring a moment of tranquility.  The 10 year old has left it’s siblings well behind it.   This will melt down your throat like a peppery butter.  The peat lingers in the mouth at the end and as the other flavours disappear, you are left with a peaty coating on your dentures and a  spicy lining all the way down to your lungs and your belly. Is there notes of the sea?   I think there is a lingering marine saltiness towards the end, and the warmth of the 46.3% and the spicy back notes of the oak work perfectly to create a moment that lingers, when you can sink your head back into the armchair and think about all those pastel painted townhouses lining Tobermory harbour.   Definitely a malt that will have you reaching for another wee nip.   The 10 year old Ledaig is redeemed of all sins at the finish, 5 out of 5

Overall.   Chances are that if your reaching for the Ledaig over the Bowmore or the Talisker, you already know what you’re doing.   The Ledaig has always been a canny buy for something with an island peatiness to it.   But this is a wee bit more sophisticated.  But chances are, that’s why you’re here.   If you’d wanted to sook a peat, you’d be working your way round Islay.  But this 10 year old Ledaig, very much like the 12 year old Old Pulteney, gives a much more complex blend of favours, that makes for a very satisfying dram.   For an entry level malt, you won’t go very wrong with the 10 year old Ledaig, a good 4 out of 5 overall.