...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Single Malt Report: Ledaig 16 year old 1973 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice (brown label)

I believe this is the actual bottle,
courtesy of Andy Smith of LASC and LAWS

In 1973 Tobermory Distillery was called Ledaig.  Or maybe in 2015, the Ledaig Distillery was called Tobermory.  This 1973 bottling has the old Connoisseurs Choice label on the outside and the heavily-peated Isle of Mull spirit on the inside.  The distillery had sat closed for 42 years before it was reopened in 1972.  And then it went bankrupt again in 1975, closed, then reopened in 1978, then closed in 1982, then reopened in 1989, as Tobermory.  The facility has bounced between the two names a few times in its history.  While the current ownership has kept the Tobermory name, they have labelled their peated single malt brand as Ledaig.

Today's specific whisky, bottled over a quarter century ago with a label that just looks like essence of Ledaig, was distilled when the property (and the company that owned it) was called Ledaig.  I anticipate there being some peat involved.

My sample label, FWIW.

Distillery: Ledaig
BottlerGordon & MacPhail
Series: Connoisseur's Choice
Age: 16 years (1973 to 1989 or 1990)
Maturation: "oak casks"
Region: Isle of Mull
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Sample purchased from the LA Scotch Club.

The color is light gold.  The nose is unbelievably massive.  And I'm not just casually throwing in that overused adverb.  I had no idea that a whisky watered down to 40%abv could have a sniffer so expansive.  It starts with peated mint chip ice cream.  And also peat.  And then some peat.  Antiseptic and roses.  Bandaids and baklava.  Cinnamon candy, cologne, and mint leaves.  After twenty minutes, a note of extra nutty sherry emerges.  Then vinyl and burning plastic.  Seaweed rotting at the beach and, curiously, raspberries.  After 45 minutes, the stuff is still alive, emitting notes of oranges, cigarettes, and red lollipops.  I was afraid to actually drink it because then it would be gone. :(  But I did so anyway because whisky is for drinking.  Here on the palate it feels much more like a 40%abv whisky, thinner and briefer than the nose.  It starts with root beer barrel candies, a note that remains present throughout.  Then there's smoked seaweed, smoked brown sugar, figs, sweet peat stuff, sea salt, and a light bitterness.  It stays vivid even after 30-45 minutes of air, with smoked almonds, cinnamon, salt, and peat moss hanging around.  Those root beer barrel candies and figs make up much of the finish, followed by mesquite barbecue.  A salty note expands with time.  Gradually a mellow bitter note moves in with the salt.  Some tart lemons pop up.  Just a moment of sweetness.

What a tremendous nose.  I really don't know what distilleries did differently back then to make possible an olfactory landscape at the lowest legal ABV.  Today there are few full strength whiskies that approach this nose's depth.  The palate and finish are more realistic, though still of considerable quality.  This isn't a crowd pleaser, but it certainly will make Ledaig fans (all six of us) very happy.  Goodness gracious, what if I could find a '73 Ledaig that was bottled at full strength...

Availability - Happy Hunting!
Pricing - probably north of $500 :(
Rating - 90


  1. Well, there's the 1972 42 YO Alambic Classique bottling that's still a solid 48%, but that's ~$400. Still a sight cheaper than the OB 42, though.

    1. Yep, that's now a bargain price for 40 year old. Hell, it's cheap compared to 30yos from some distilleries.

      I had a small pour of the 37yo Alambic Classique (this one: https://www.whiskybase.com/whisky/18487/ledaig-1972-ac) last year. Similar issue but different characteristics. The nose was awesome, palate was flat. Was glad to have tried it, but was glad to not have purchased a bottle. This younger G&M was better, in my opinion. But I wouldn't say no to a sip of the 42yo. :) MAO enjoyed the 40yo, http://myannoyingopinions.com/2013/07/27/ledaig-40-1972-alambic-classique/.

    2. I saw the OB '72 (the ex-oloroso 32 year old) selling for all of $300 and I almost violated all of my spending rules to get it. But didn't. I do know the guy who bought it instead. I'd happily pay for a sample of that (if you're reading this, Mr. TT).

  2. You can't do wrong with Ledaigs from the early 70s. I had the privilege to taste some really nice examples which have been bottled in the 90s for which i would exchange some old Talis just to get a hand at one of those bottlings. Talking bout the Douglas Murdoch, Ledaig 20yo 40% abv as well as the Moon Import ‘De Viris Illustribus’ Tobermory 1972 - 1996 50% abv - both are pure Ambrosia and if you should ever come acroos one of those bottles be sure to grab them ;)

    1. Wow, I hadn't even heard of those until now. So many wonderful old bottlings in Europe that never made it to The States.

    2. As per your notes, it sounds like the Douglas Murdoch one had a tremendous palate even at 40%abv. Man, what was everyone doing differently back then?

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