Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: Ledaig 10 years Single Malt Scotch Whisky


I said "L-E-D-A-I-G."

I know you are drawing a blank.  Me too.  Sounds like some tropical disease  of the lower bowel that afflicted the machete swinging, 16 century Spanish soldiers, who hacked their way through suffocatingly humid Peruvian jungle, on the orders of the murderous, Inca gold-loving conquistador, Francisco Pizarro.  

It's not another word for Lord Byron era "consumption" either.

Depending on who you ask, "Ledaig" is pronounced as "led-ching" or "let-chick."  I suspect Gaelic pronunciation will vary depending on the particular region the person you ask resides in.  In any event, "Ledaig" is the former name of the Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides.    I guess the owners also found the original distillery name had some unwanted connotations that impeded the marketability of the whisky.

Tobermory puts out some single malts that are used in affordable blends: Scottish Leader and Black Bottle (the latter, I am particularly fond of).

The distillery bottles most of its whisky under "Tobermory" and it is somewhat salty, fruity, but unpeated.  The distillery also bottles under the label of "Ledaig" and it is peaty and providing plenty of smoke.  So how is it?

Nose (undiluted)
Mildly antiseptic, loam, earthen, smokey and nicely peated.

Palate (undiluted)
Salty, fresh raw oysters, iodine, rich seawater, a ginger/sulphur sweetness lurks too, and is complimented by tart salt notes of sea foam.  The loam and earthen notes of the nose come through on the palate too.  Peat?  Yes, of course.  It is peated, but not over the top.  This is not Laphroaig or Ardbeg.  However, there is more intensity than say Bowmore 12.  This shares a lot in common with Isle of Jura offerings.  I can see where Black Bottle gets its magic.

Finish (undiluted)
Ginger and kippers transition into a cloud of black smoke rising up from a bunch of damp branches burning down on the beach on a cold winter's day.  The length of the finish is truly impressive.  It hangs forever!  

ABV 46.3%
I think the higher than usual ABV contributes to the very lengthy finish to this delightful whisky.  Normally at such an ABV, I would think adding a little water is a must, but that is not the case here.  Ledaig is smooth and never harsh.  So, there is no need to add water to make it more gentle.  He's a gentle giant already.  I have added water and have not found an improvement.  I prefer it neat and really have to salute the team that put this single malt together.  To have a wonderfully peated malt at 46.3 ABV with no bite or rough edges is an incredible feat.

This non-chill filtered whisky is very light in color.  I am certain no caramel coloring was added to this malt.  I find it almost shocking how light in color it is.  Matter of fact, I cannot think of a malt that is lighter.  Reminds me of straw.

General Impressions
This reminds me of Black Bottle, but is much better.  Of course there is a huge difference in price too.  Ledaig also shares a lot in common with Isle of Jura Superstition and Smokehead.  Ledaig is far superior though.  With it's impressive length of flavor, complexity and balance.  It just beats the hell out of the other two.  Matter of fact, I definitely prefer this over Bowmore 12, and Bowmore 12 is a very nice entry level Islay malt.

If you enjoy peaty whisky this is one for you.  If you want to experiment with the peat and smoke elements in scotch, again this bottle may be ideal for you.  However if you avoid Islay malts and not a fan of Talisker and Isle of Jura then I doubt you will enjoy this one.

Price Point
Expensive!  At least where I live.  If you can find this for $60 or less, you are breaking the law my friend.  That's well worth it.  I paid around $80 but I am still satisfied with this purchase.

Suggested Food Pairing?

I first encountered Ledaig 10 years at an expensive whisky dinner.  The Ledaig was paired with blood pudding and fresh scallops.  They also had apple chutney.  Take a mouthful of scallops or the earthy blood pudding and then chase it with some Ledaig, and you may as well tell everyone that you have been to Heaven and lived to tell about it.

I attempted to recreate such a meal at home.  Couldn't find the apple chutney, but I had no problem locating the blood pudding and scallops.  To this I thought caramelized onions would be nice too.  Preparation is simple.  Pan fry the blood pudding, but not for very long.  You do not want to dry out the sausage.  Maybe 8 minutes on medium heat, all the while turning over frequently.  In another frying pan, with some butter, fry up two, finely chopped, large white onions, do it on medium heat.  Let them blacken and reduce, and add a little more butter.  When the onions are reduced to caramelized,  blackened bits, they will be ready to join the blood pudding on a plate.  Finally, those scallops can be pan fried with butter but for a very short time on medium heat, like maybe 10 minutes. Turn over the scallops frequently.

Put the sausage, onions and scallops on a plate, pour your self a dram of Ledaig, and boy are you in for a treat!

The sausage is very earthy, while the scallops are sweet with a taste of the sea, and the onions keep everything in check.  Taste slowly with your whisky.

Do this and you will never confuse Ledaig with a 16th century tropical disease again!


Jason Debly


  1. Nice review, Jason. Ledaig 10 sounds like an interesting whisky. I've never seen it at any of my local shops. But given your preference for it over Bowmore 12 (which I really enjoy), I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for a bottle.

    - Josh

    1. I certainly enjoy Bowmore 12 by the way, but Ledaig edges it out.

      Anyway, availability is a bit of a problem. Ledaig is a more obscure single malt, but I wanted to let the peat freak readers know that if they encounter it, they should certainly consider it.

  2. Jason, Commendations for stepping onto a side path of the malt journey with Ledaig. I will have to re-taste this fellow and Tobermory's standard 10y offering again soon. Our last Ledaig tasting was a rather, ahem, challenging experience for our group with comments including: "nose of vanilla, citrus, and spoiled oatmeal", "sulfurous, unclean baby diaper", "dung heaps at the training stable", and "cold, greasy bbq pit." It was painfully difficult to enjoy, but on your recommendation, we'll chance a repurchase for the group. JK

  3. Nice story Jason! Let me know when you open up Restaurant Chez Debly and I'll try to make it. Nice pairing. Will try it out someday. Cheers, Jan

  4. Jason, Our whiskey group purchased a fresh bottle of Ledaig 10 and tasted it with a couple other fresh versions of very moderately-peated whiskies (HP 18, JW Gold), last evening. Sadly, the character of the previous versions of Ledaig was repeated. Dang. The content of my earlier post (which did not make the editorial cut (!) for your blog) must be restated. We found a very objectionable degree of heavy barnyard aroma, quite fecal and rancid. We are not inexperienced tasters. We as a group formed the opinion that a bacterial spoilage problem occurred somewhere in the production process, don't know where. We don't know what the source is, but it is not just mercaptans. All three bottles that we experienced over the past five years presented similarly, sadly. Perhaps it is an inherent aspect of the local peat used for Tobermory, but I really doubt it. I'm at a loss to reconcile tasting notes except to say optimistically and speculate that there's some risk of experiencing this specific type of product variability for the consumer to consider, with regard to this product in the bottle. JK

    1. Hi JK!

      Ledaig 10 yrs, in the past, has not enjoyed a stellar reputation. Previously, it has been unexceptional for the price, though not flawed as you describe.

      Readers who want to try Ledaig 10, should probably purchase the bottle from a reputable spirits vendor who will take back a flawed bottle.

      Your bottle seems to relate to quality control.


  5. I have to confess, I have commited a crime at $52.95 USD.

    To the palate and finish I was transported to the edge of the sea in a most plesant way. To my untrained nose, notes of toffee and nothing unplesant as described by JK.

    I also compared it to Bowmore 12 and found I liked the Ledaig 10 better as well.

    Thank you for your wonderfull website.

    SD - Florida

    1. Hello SD!

      $52.95 is an awesome price for such a high quality malt.

      I think JK got a flawed bottle. No doubt about it, because he is very knowledgeable of whiskies.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. I got you beat with a bottle I picked up two weeks ago in Houston at $46.50.

    JK, you had to have purchased a "sour" bottle. Our tasting group sampled the Ledaig as well as the rest of the Tobermory range. All three were pleasant. The Ledaig's mellow peat was a hit with the other guys.

    Jason C

  7. Ledaig is an acquired taste, to an extent. It is one of the farmiest whiskies out there - we're talking stables, wet hay, cow pie, the whole show! It gets points for character, not for finesse. I had great experience with a couple different independent bottlings as well. Goes great with sherry casks! It does well even at a young age. This is a love-it-or-hate-it malt, like Laphroaig. I'm not surprised at JK's story.

    1. I think this is accurate. I love Ledaig and have gladly purchased a replacement as soon as I've finished off a bottle. But this stuff is sui generis (so, by the way, is Tobormory; as Jason describes, it really is a blend of salt and fruit), and you';ll either like it or you won't. It's one of those malts that tastes only like itself, like Talisker. The most apt flavor note I've heard describe it is new bicycle tire. That's the same flavor described by others as soiled diaper. It's there, it's the salty-fruity mash-up that makes this malt so appealing. Or, to some tastes, apparently, disgusting!

    2. "Sui generis" . . . you took the Latin words right out of my mouth!

  8. Jason,

    I'm working on what is perhaps the 3rd or 4th bottle of Ledaig purchased over the past 2 years and agree with most of your evaluation. The nose on my current bottle is ever so slightly sour, but the palate and finish more than make up for that (very minor) deficiency. At $42.00 locally, it undercuts Laphroaig and Ardbeg by almost $10.00, so I'm not complaining!

    - Paul M.

    1. Wow! Great price point!

      I probably said this before but I far prefer Ledaig 10 to Ardbeg 10 any day.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  9. Hi Jason,

    This is quite a gem of whisky. I had never heard of it until I saw your review here back in March, and assumed that due to its obscurity I'd probably not find it in my area. Thankfully I was wrong, and picked it up for $60.

    The peat in this whisky is beautiful--reminds me of the peat of a Highland Park bottling, perhaps HP 15. It has a similar character to Talisker 10, albeit a little more antiseptic taste. At 46.3% ABV, this is very smooth drinking. For anyone reading my comment, the Peat and iodine in Ledaig is nowhere near that of Laphroaig or Ardbeg, nor is it too antiseptic in my opinion. While we're on the subject of Ardbeg, the only reason I'm not a huge fan of Ardbeg 10 (though I do like it) is because I find it too antiseptic for my taste.

    Hopefully I'll get around to trying your scallops and blood pudding dish. Coupled with Ledaig, that sounds delicious! Thanks for a great review and bringing a rare gem to my attention!

    1. Hi Bryan!

      I am pleased to read that my review accords with your tastes.

      I agree that Ardbeg can be overpowering. For that reason, I tend to add water to it. A teaspoon or a little less of water can make it more complex and softer ever so slightly.

      As for Ledaig is a great one and honestly, pair it with some pan fried scallops and blood pudding and you will be in gustatory heaven!

  10. It is for $67.00 here in Toronto, shall definitely grab one from the LCBO.

  11. G'day Jason,
    Just shelled out $80 for my bottle on my way home from work. I might check around for Black Bottle as well.....
    AL (from OZ)

    1. Hope you enjoy! It is a peat and smoke beast, and one I think is really underrated. Let us know what you think.

  12. Popped the cork.... Oh baby... I'm home! Had to take our time with this one. Spot on re water. Not needed. Really nice.... And my mate isn't a smokey lover. He was in raptures over it. Got a winner here Jason.

    1. I really like this better than its peers like Laphraoig 10 and Quartercask. Glad you enjoy!

  13. Thanks for the review :D
    I might pick up a bottle as they're on sale now here for about $29

    1. $29!!!!!! Grab all you can at that crazy price! What a steal. Where do you live?

  14. Great review Jason. I recently nabbed a bottle at $52.00-ish.I have been drinking Ardbeg 10 ($47) and Laphroaig ($40). I also have Uigeadail, which I love, in rotation but wanted to branch out from my favorites.

    Man, I am glad I did. This is a different peat presentation and just the change of pace I was looking for. Delicious sea and brine character with citrus and slightly peppery under tones. Think perfectly peated Old Pulteney 12.

    Although I found your review after I tried Ledaig, your impressions synch up with my experience.

    Damn, damn good stuff.

    1. Glad to read it worked for you. I far prefer Ledaig to Ardbeg 10 any day.