...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Ledaig 17 year old 1998 AD Rattray cask 800036 (my bottle)

The Mull Monster

I wasn’t even in the mood to buy anything when I saw this bottle in late 2015. (My comrades with this same disease know what happened next.) A year later I realized I’d never actually enjoyed super-high ABV single malts. A year after that I opened my awful sherry cask Auchentoshan from this same bottler, and began to wonder if something terribly wrong happened to this sherry cask too. Buyer’s Remorse set in.

When 2020 decided to be all 2020 about everything, I figured if this Ledaig was indeed demon piss then this was the right year to find out.


Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 17 years (3 April 1998 - 1 Sept 2015)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask number800036
Outturn: 528 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 65.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from my bottle)

I tasted this whisky at three ABV levels, side by side, for the purposes of this review:

There's no alcohol burn to the nose, but there are three peat levels trading fours: Farm, Moss and Ocean. Chalk dust and stones fill in the midground. Black plums, dried cherries and toffee chips perch in the background. And occasionally a cashew hint ekes out. The palate is VERY approachable for this ABV. Black walnuts, manure, and a salty, savory broth sit up front. Sweet citrus, nectarines and baking spices are in the back. The monolithic finish is all stones, earth, salt, herbal smoke and bitter chocolate.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose goes medicinal, with lots of iodine and band-aids. But there are also candied pecans, orange peels, seaweed and manure. The palate becomes intensely salty, like ocean water and kelp. It grows sweeter and more aromatic with time, gaining a good selection of citrus fruits. It finishes salty and savory. Some mossy smoke, dark chocolate and limes appear after a while.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or >2½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Much more variety in the nose now. Industrial smoke and elephant manure. Walnuts, dried herbs and hay. Dark chocolate and cherries. The palate remains very very salty and a herbal bitterness develops around the edges. Bits of brown sugar and raspberry jam in the background. Bitter chocolate and dried stone fruits finish it up.

Immediately upon finishing my first pour from this bottle I was convinced that the 65.8% abv was a typo. It drank much too easily. Perhaps the label was supposed to read 56.8% (which was the ABV of the previous Rattray I reviewed, coincidentally), or 55.8%. I was convinced there was something fishy going on, and not the usual Weird-Era Ledaig fishiness.

But after this tasting my doubt has decreased. In fact after the tasting I was utterly hammered and my mouth was numb. And at ~46%abv, the whisky was still gigantic. Had the original ABV been 56.8%, and I'd added the same amount of water, the dilution would have dropped it to about 39%abv, and that was no 39%abv whisky.

Ignoring all the numbers, I must say this is a terrific whisky. Its sheer brutality keeps it from ascending to the 90+ point team. Heaps upon heaps of sea salt and bitter chocolate fill the palate, and Octomore-levels of peat punish the nose. And also manure. It's a manure monster. You can add water, but it won't save you.

Availability - Possibly still around on The Continent
Pricing - I bought it for $120 four years ago, now it appears to be closer to $150-$200 (pending exchange rates)
Rating - 89