Cadenhead Ledaig 2005 11-year-old

Thursday, May 11, 2017



2017 has been relentless with these Cadenhead 175th Anniversary outturns on a monthly basis. The standard has been consistently excellent, as this Campbeltown independent bottler has pummelled the opposition with a series of unmatchable releases. The only downside being from a consumer perspective is you’re playing catch-up and your bank balance is gasping for air. 
 
Thankfully the releases are relatively affordable and well-priced yet at times you’re bamboozled as to what you can purchase and experience. It’s basically what the Scotch Malt Whisky Society would love to achieve on a consistent basis (albeit at lower prices) but have failed to do so in recent times. No one other than Gordon & MacPhail can arguably match the Cadenhead arsenal and to do so takes long term planning and consistent investment in your inventory. You can read all the Cadenhead releases I’ve reviewed so far in 2017 right here and this number will grow as we still have (gulp) 8 of the blinking things left to endure. It’s the Rambo of release schedules. 
 
Within the April outturn, there were many temptations. Much like a visit to a well-stocked Tormore outlet, everything has a certain appeal. Top of my list was one of the youngest, being just 11 years old and setting you back around £55. It’s from Ledaig, or Tobermory distillery if you prefer and is situated on the Isle of Mull. Now, the mention of Tobermory is often enough to spark fear in some enthusiasts given that for many it forms the centrepiece of their axis of evil when it comes to whisky. I agree that Tobermory can be slightly restrained and often difficult to harness and appreciate, but that’s half the fun in the discovery and unlocking those secrets.
 
For around 6 months of the year the distillery will produce the non-peated spirit that we know as Tobermory. The remainder of the year will be the peated Ledaig spirit that has been gaining acclaim in recent times. Midway you might even score with a weird hybrid, as for whatever reason being it the cleaning of the distillation equipment or casks wrongly labelled, I’ve had some enjoyable Tobermory’s because of this. Ledaig tends to be peated to a level of 39ppm give or take, which puts it into Lagavulin and Caol Ila territory. It’s not doing this peat thing modestly and some have stated its much along the lines of a young Ardbeg.
 
 
The fact that this release is bottled at a mighty 61.8% caught my attention, as this harks back to the age of those Cadenhead green bottle releases. These bottlings tended to be a bit on the youthful side and cask strength, which given how they filled at a higher strength back in those days meant you were preparing yourself for a full blast of distillery character. Think of it as if you’re purchasing a bottle but in reality you’re getting almost a 3rd free due to the higher level. Throw in the fact that this is also coming from a sherry butt and you don’t need to ask me twice about purchasing this bottle!
 
I’ll keep the chat about Tobermory closing for 2 years for another piece. For now, let’s sit back with this Ledaig that was distilled in 2005 before being bottled this year with an outturn of 450 bottles.
 
Colour: balsa wood
Nose: a coastal bouquet garni of moss, thyme and an overriding saltiness. There's a mix of petrol fumes from a spent lawnmower and driftwood. Then the sweetness lifts up with candy floss, liquorice, a vanilla sorbet, poached pears and buttered brown toast. Water delivers a minty freshness, orange peel, grapefruit and a mineral aspect.
Taste: it's not hugely detailed but oh boy there's peat and salt in copious quantities. Bitter almonds, the strike of a matchstick and crushed hazelnuts. Water emphasises the campfire nature of the whisky, but also a fruity sweetness with caramelised apples and a smoky grapefruit; if there ever was such a thing.
 
Overall: sitting down again with this dram its interesting to debate the influence the sherry butt has provided during maturation. It lacks the redness of your standard sherried whiskies and likely was a refill butt of some kind. Rather than leading the charge its provided more roundness to the Ledaig, which is generally peaty and upfront with little rear guard. This Cadenhead Ledaig has more weight and depth than others of a similar age. Given I've bought another bottle that should tell you everything you need to know.
 
 

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