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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