...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Life of a Whisky Bottle: Ledaig 15 year old (2001 bottling)

This whisky and I have some history.  It was introduced to me three and a half years ago at a most formative tasting, one that introduced me not only to Ledaig, but also early Corryvrecken and Willett's single barrels of LDI/MGP rye.  It left me wondering, what is this weird Ledaig stuff?

It also left me searching for my own bottle of the now extinct white-labelled 15 year old.  My online searches took me as far as Yorkshire, UK.  Lucky me, for my wife had a business trip near the retailer around that time.  Lucky me, for my wife received the whisky parcel at her hotel.  Lucky me, for my wife couriered it back to our home.  Lucky me, for my wife.

My plan was to open the bottle this past winter.  But then Long Beach had late summer heat until November.  Then we were traveling in December.  So it wasn't opened until January of this year.  Thus the bottle's winter was short, as was its open life.

As an experiment, I took samples from the top of the bottle, the mid-third, and the bottom of the bottle, in January, February, and April.  I've done Life of Bottle posts before where I've done tastings throughout the bottle's life, but this time I would taste various points of the bottle at the same time in order to compare and see how much it changes and oxidizes or oxygenate in the bottle.

One thing to note before I dive into the results, this whisky was bottled in 2001......which means that the whisky in the bottle is older than 15 years.  In 1982, Tobermory distillery (which makes Ledaig single malt) was closed and turned into apartments and (yes) cheese storage by the real estate company that owned the facility.  Production restarted in 1989.  This means the whisky in my bottle was 19-20 years old, or possibly older.  If that sounds a bit nutty, consider the entry in The Whisky Monitor for the 2003 bottling, which was 21 years old or older.  These are the sorts of things that happen when whisky industries have gone through a long term down period, and also when companies are establishing an age stated range (like current GlenDronach).

Now, onto the tasting.  My Annoying Opinions and Chemistry of the Cocktail will be posting simul-reviews of the whisky from this very bottle.  I'll include links to their reviews as soon as I am able...

And here they are!
MAO's review: http://myannoyingopinions.com/2015/08/12/ledaig-15-43/
Cocktailchem's review: http://cocktailchem.blogspot.com/2015/08/whisky-review-ledaig-15-year.html

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Type: Single Malt
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: minimum 15 years old, though actually 19 years or older in this case
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon barrels
Bottling year: 2001
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Colored? ???
Chillfiltered? ???

This bottle's usage:
24% - Swaps and shares
0% - Whisky experiments
20% - Graded tastings
56% - Casual drinking

Color - Gold
Nose - A cheerful green/herbal note; think anise and cucumber skins.  Wood smoke and gentle peat moss.  Raspberry candy and rhubarb pie.  Dry leaves, grilled fish/seaweed, and wet sand.  With plenty of air, the candied notes remain, but not the herbal note.  A farmy hint appears as does a louder cinnamon note.
Palate - Pretty peppery and lightly sweet.  Barbecue and charred meat.  Salt and toasty barley.  A hint of tobacco.  With time an herbal bitter note grows and grows.  The peat expands.  The cinnamon note arrives, along with hints of tropical fruit punch and peach liqueur.
Finish - Sweeter and more vanilla-ed here.  Beachy and salty.  Slight lime tartness and herbal bitterness.  With air, the cinnamon shows up here too, as does the peach liqueur.

MID BOTTLE, February 2015
Similar to the 1/15 notes but with the following differences: 
Nose - More citrus and rhubarb pie.  Some dark chocolate and citronella candles.  With air, it remains bright and fruity, but also a little floral. Maybe a note of floral soap.  Salty cheese and butter.
Palate - Much more vanilla now. More direct overall. Bigger sweets, bigger bitter.  Some anise and pepper, less charred beef.  With time, a butter note develops. Cinnamon. More peppercorns and wormwood. Peat's a little dirtier. 
Finish - Peat is louder, as are the sweets and bitter.  Oddly, it feels longer.  With time, the peat and bitterness vanish, replaced by butter, cinnamon, and dried herbs.

Similar to the 1/15 and 2/15 notes but with the following differences: 
Nose - Fruitier still. More grassy, more anise, less smoke, less grilled fish/seaweed. Peat feels cleaner, saltier.  Hint of cardboard.  With time, it gets a little farmier.  Maybe some lime candy.
Palate - Mildest peat yet. Mild overall. Vanilla, pepper, and hay.  Picks up some more spice and florals with time, but also awakens that cardboard note.
Finish - Sugary vanilla, salt, and lots of cracked pepper.

Observation #1: The first thing that struck me was how subtle and graceful this was compared to my experience with it three and a half years ago.  Back then I was seduced by its big weird smoke and strength.  Now, after having tried quite a number of modern Ledaigs, I'm fascinated by this whisky's calm.  It's certainly the mellowest Ledaig I've ever tried.

Observation #2: Usually I find the first pour from a bottle to be closed and a little jumbled.  The middle third is often my favorite part.  This time the top of the bottle proved to be the most complex.  The mid-bottle pour from this bottle was definitely the friendliest and brightest.  But really there wasn't a heck of a lot of change between the two.  Oxygen didn't do too much work over that first month.  But after three months, and with the bottle spending most of its open life less than half full, oxidation had started to affect the whisky.  The edges were gone, the palate had begun to flatten out, and the finish started to vanish.

Observation #3: As I'd mentioned in the intro, I searched for this bottle long and far, finding it 5,500 miles away and buying it at a considerable price.  Two years later, I discovered two stores in my neighborhood still carried that very bottle and at almost half the price.  Two facepalms transpired.

Observation #4: I don't know if there's anything on the market quite like it, but at the same time it is not worth $100+.  If you do have one of these and you do open it, I recommend hitting it with some Private Preserve (or something like it) once you get to mid-bottle.

Observation #5: It's not a 92-point whisky, but it's still very good.  I'm glad I opened it rather than keeping it tucked away all crowded in with other lonely bottles.

Availability - Happy Hunting!!!
Pricing - $60-$120
Rating - 87