Unquantifiable allure

Posted 10 October 2018 / In Tobermory
The Dramble reviews Ledaig 1998 PX Cask Finish

Bottle Name: Ledaig 1998 PX Cask Finish

ABV: 55.7%
Distillery: Tobermory
Region: Islands

Of all the distillates I’ve tasted, I find the appeal of Ledaig the hardest to communicate. To a non-whisky drinker (and even to some die-hard enthusiasts), the idea that a beverage can smell and taste of burnt rubber, cheese or fruity meats and yet still be deemed as tasty seems fairly alien.

Ledaig was far from my first foray until peated whiskies, but it is fair to say that it’s a spirit that I now actively seek out and virtually always greatly enjoy. And yet, I’ve rarely been successful in being able to properly describe exactly what the appeal of the whisky is.

Beyond notions of balance, presence, preciseness of flavour delivery and determination, most Ledaig tasting notes read like a smorgasbord of insanity. Sure, one could suggest that these unusual combinations actually do marry exceptionally well with each other, but this does the uniqueness of Tobermory’s peated output a disservice. It’s more than that.....every distillery is of course unique, but to me Ledaig as a spirit pushes the boundaries of my taste buds. And when you’re constantly sampling dozens of Speysiders all with a broadly similar profile, there’s something to be said about giving your palate a more challenging experience. 

Ledaig is far from the most known of whiskies. Certainly that holds appeal for me - like many things, niche popularity has a very particular type of appeal. Ledaig is weird and it’s weird to like Ledaig. Sign me right up.

But, perhaps it’s precisely my inability to convey why I adore this spirit so much that actually keeps me coming back for more? Perhaps Ledaig is a whisky that I shouldn’t overthink....a mystery is a mystery until it’s not.

In the meantime, let’s just get stuck in - 1998 limited edition (just 360 bottles allocated for the UK) Ledaig finished for just under two years in PX. 55.7% ABV and costing around £150.

Nose: A few minutes to open in the glass - then tarry acrid smoke sweetened by red berries, dark chocolate and rum-steeped raisins. The peat is typically Ledaig - pungent, ‘dirty’ and with both a plasticated side and a meatiness - Cumberland sausage with gravy. There’s certainly some farmyard cheesiness here too - Well veined Stilton. Water brings out both the ripe berry fruits, expressing both raspberry and blackberry, as well as plenty of bicycle inner tubes.

Taste: A full-bodied, rich and oily arrival fresh from the engine room - machine lubricants, sooty chimneys and well-worn conveyor belts. Again, as with the nose, the PX influence provides both sweetness and a foil to the more bitter flavours arising from the peat - port sauce, chocolate and coffee sit with reduced plums and red berries. Meatiness again - BBQ brisket, which develops on the palate from sweet cuts, through burnt fats through to a combination of ashiness and sugars. The addition of water adds a sense of jamminess and also a touch of cask in the form of ginger spicing.

Finish: Long and phenolic it’s burnt beef, singed biscuits and a tingle of salty coastalness.

This limited edition Ledaig offers imbibers the usual (slightly weird) pungency that is associated with the peated Tobermory distillate alongside sweeter aromas and flavours from PX. To me, the offering feels cohesive in terms of delivery and balance, with the rich and deep notes of sherry supporting and inter-playing with the innate acridity of the spirit. At 19 years of age, this is perhaps calmer than many Ledaig expressions, but what has been lost in raw potency has been made up for with some neat flavour combinations. A tasty option, if like me you’re a fan of the wild side of peated whiskies.

Score: 88/100


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