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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Life of a Whisky Bottle: Ledaig 6 year old 2005 Blackadder

Once upon a time (June 2013), I paid over $100 for a bottle of 6 year old whisky.  Twenty-four hours later the remorse set in.  Why had I excitedly but blindly purchased a bottle of infant whisky for three figures?  Firstly, I liked the distillery's peated malt.  Secondly, I'd always wanted one of the indie bottler's Raw Cask whiskys.  I'm a big sucker for the pile of char at the bottom of every bottle.

The whisky was Ledaig.  The bottler was Blackadder.  And my normally thrifty better angels were out taking a sh*t that particular afternoon.

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Independent Bottler: Blackadder
Age: September 14, 2005 - July 2012 (6 years)
Maturation: ex-sherry cask
Cask number9011
Bottle #:  118 of 166
Region: Isle of Mull
Alcohol by Volume: 64.0%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No

This bottle's usage:
24% - Swaps and shares
7% - Whisky experiments
24% - Graded tastings
45% - Casual drinking

First thing's first.  What it is not is a Raw Cask bottling, so there's no barrel char sprinkles at the bottom of the bottle.  What it is is a 64% ABV very young whisky from a famously difficult distillery.  Normally I save whiskies priced at that level for special occasions.  But I couldn't think of a single occasion that I wanted to celebrate with a face full of hot weird peat.

But an occasion presented itself.  In late August I was scheduled to have eye surgery, not corrective surgery but actual invasive cutting.  Unexpectedly (and sincerely surprising my doctor) my body healed itself.  Woo hoo!  Time to celebrate.  Here are the tweets that followed:

I immediately realized this one was going to need some air; as in, months of it.  This was not an issue because this past September, October, and much of November were hot as hell.  And a 64% ABV Ledaig is not easily consumed in a leisurely fashion during 90 degree heat.

The above tweets were my impressions of the very first glass.  Needless to say, the generally poisonous nature of the whisky receded with time.  I saved two samples from the top of the bottle then a pair from mid-bottle.  And now that I'm in the bottle's bottom third, there's plenty to taste.  The following tasting notes combine my experiences from three different comparisons I conducted this year:

Top of the bottle:

Nose - Rubber -- rubber bands and sneaker tread.  Burnt moss, gunpowder, and mezcal.  Oak pulp, elephant dung, and toffee. And something once bright and floral crushed by the aforementioned elephant crap
Palate - Heat, so much heat.  New sneakers and tennis ball fuzz.  Bushels of green mossy peat, melted plastic, and salt.  Bananas and a light sweetness in the far background
Finish - Extensive, like I just smoked a cheap cigar.  Also urine and gunpowder with growing sourness.

W/WATER (approx 43-46% ABV)
Nose - Horseradish, chlorine, and dirty hay.  Harshness mostly becalmed, but still some acetone / nail polish.
Palate - Synthetic burnt quality.  Soil, bitter chlorine, very green bitter peat, and a slight tartness.
Finish - Still large, all char and ash.


Nose - Big alcohol heat. Just a hint of the sherry oak, fresh fruits also possibly from the sherry cask (which is much appreciated at this point).  Peat is much clearer now, like rotting vegetation and seaweed.  Parmesan cheese, cap gun recently fired, dog manure, cinnamon-sugar combo, caramel, lemon zest, seawater, and new cheap shoes.
Palate - Very buttery.  Tire fire, torched veg, and plastic.  A little sweetness, but mostly sour.  Apples and a hint of very dark chocolate and prunes.
Finish - Burnt stuff from the palate, peat ashes, gunpowder, citrus tang, hints of prunes and chlorine.

Nose - Peated cream of wheat with mint.  Body odor, used socks, and severe sneaker peat that cannot be drowned.  Something between cocoa powder and gunpowder, nail polish, apples, chlorine, and a little generic citrus.
Palate - Getting more pleasant now. Hay, burnt toast, burnt peat.  Something sweet & creamy in the far background, but also a little sour and leathery at the same time.  Mild vanilla, ground black pepper, dirt, and more gunpowder.
Finish - Now it's cigarette throat.  Burnt peat, gunpowder, tart, but also a little sweet.

Final third of the bottle:

Nose - More fruit!  Bananas and out of season peaches.  Caramel and honey.  Brighter and with less manure.  Sneaker peat and gunpowder remain.  More immediately pleasant than before.
Palate - Less heat, with the peat becoming more tobacco-like.  Very strong bitter lettuces, along with horseradish.  It's very dry and fruit-free.
Finish - Peat gets mossier here, but still plenty of smoke.  A little vanilla.  Much less chlorine.

Nose - Still richer and fruitier than earlier points.  Mossy peat.  Farmy farts.  Vanilla.  Cinnamon and honey.
Palate - A little barley and sugar sweetness eking out, as does some sweet spice.  Peated oatmeal.
Finish - Smoked pencils, ashy, maybe some sweetness, but mostly smoky mezcal.

Conclusion #1:  I have no idea why Blackadder was in such a hurry to bottle this whisky so soon.  With fuller maturation, this could have been a thunderous beauty.
Conclusion #2:  There is no reason why this should be $100, even in this market.
Conclusion #3:  I'm a f***ing idiot for paying so much for this whisky.
Conclusion #4:  But it is not terrible.  In fact, as it exists right now with oxidation, the whisky is a bracing winter chimney.  At mid-bottle it was a rumbling volcano on a stinky peat farm.  At the top of the bottle, it could be weaponized.
Conclusion #5:  Because so few bottles came from a sherry cask, I'm sort of wondering if Blackadder split the cask into two releases, with this one (reviewed by Serge) being its mate.  In fact, I'm convinced it is.  It has the same cask number......  If so, it definitely seems like Serge got the top of the bottle and it almost took the man down.  Impressive, in a way.
Conclusion #6:  Can I recommend this?  Only to those not sulphur sensitive...... Who wants to send a sample to Jim Murray?!  One would also need to really enjoy intensely farmy whisky, and thus not be afraid of finding some poop (notes) in one's drink.  One would need to live in a colder climate than I.  One would also need no qualms about paying $100 for a non-Kilchoman non-BTAC baby whisk(e)y.  Also it will burn one's mouth.  Are those enough qualifiers?
Conclusion #7:  I swear this is 128 proof mezcal.

Availability - Sparse. Maybe a handful of US specialty retailers
Pricing - $90-$110
Rating - 79