Tobermory and Ledaig. Ledaig and Tobermory. Both familiar names for whisky lovers, especially those residing on the picturesque, Hebridean Isle of Mull.
The Distillery is located on the village of Tobermory, and shares the same name. Ohh, the village of Tobermory…For us lucky enough to have been there, it is a place that we will always want to go back to. Small, but with so much to offer. Probably, the only thing that is more admirable than the scenery, is the hospitality of the locals. But what about it’s whisky?
The Tobermory distillery was founded in 1798, by John Sinclair, and was initially known as Ledaig (Led-chig, meaning ”safe haven” in Gaelic). It is the only distillery on Mull, however, it produces two different expressions, named (for obvious reasons) Tobermory and Ledaig.
The Tobermory single malt is distilled from unpeated malted barley, while the Ledaig is heavily peated.
They are both bottled in various ages, but today, I will be tasting the principal bottlings, the 10 year olds.Both are also un-chillfiltered and bottled at high strength (46.3% abv), so one would expect to taste a flavorful spirit.
Let’s get to it…
As soon as you open the bottle of the Tobermory 10, and especially after you’ve poured yourself a dram, you feel like you are actually there.
Maritime, with a strong island character, it smells like the coast of Tobermory. How about that? Tobermory 10 smells like Tobermory itself! The island, the village, the environment and the distillery contained in a single sniff. This is the very purpose of a single malt whisky.
But what about its taste?
Smooth, slightly sweet and with hints of fruit, it somehow manages to keep its maritime character, while revealing all those other flavors.
The finish is not the longest, but quite pleasing nonetheless.
Nose: light and fresh, maritime, grassy with fruit on the background. Almost smells like sea water. Sweet sea water.
Palate: smooth, sweetish, slightly spicy & medicinal with a hint of salt. Ginger on the background.
Finish: short/Medium ,spicy, nutty and salty.
Now this is different… What’s this familiar, overpowering smell? Oh yes…. It’s peat! Tobermory 10 smells like Tobermory,but Ledaig 10 smells like Islay! It is that peaty! Some would argue that a whisky that’s not from Islay should not be reminiscent of Islay. But that notion, that only Islay whiskies are peated, is wrong to begin with. As I keep saying, Islay doesn’t always mean peat and, peat, doesn’t always mean Islay.
Back to the point.
The distillery describes the Ledaig as ”wonderfully peated”, and ,really, I do not disagree.
It is not just peaty, but flavorful as well. You get many different flavors,that come and go, working well with the peat and the smoke. It is a peat fest,from the start, and continues to be, until the longish aftertaste has faded.
Nose: fresh peat, maritime, salt & seaweed ,iodine , dusty, with hints of sweet barley.
Palate: delicious peat, sweet & salty, spicy, smoke and ashes, malty, with some fruit on the background
Finish: Longish, peaty & salty, medicinal with smoke and spices, slightly dry
So, who wins the battle for the perfect 10 of Mull? This is a tough one…
Tobermory wins points for the amazing fact that it reminds you of Tobermory. That’s what single malt whiskies are supposed to do. Make you drink the place, through the spirit. Sadly, we don’t get that very often these days, and Tobermory 10 is a great example of a whisky that does just that. It’s the distillery’s ”signature” whisky.
Having said that, the Ledaig is just out of this world.It’s a more aggressive (in a good way) version of the Tobermory, with lots of tasty peat and smoke. You can’t beat the peat-flavor combo. And it still keeps the island character too.
It is tough choosing between the two. They are both great examples of single malt whisky, putting the distillery’s character in priority.
In my opinion, though, the Ledaig is slightly superior. Maybe it’s because of my peat-loving nature but, I think, everyone would agree that, the Ledaig 10, is one of the most well balanced, peated whiskies out there.
As in most things regarding whisky, everything comes down to personal preference. So, try them for yourselves, and crown your own king of Mull!
Until next time,