Tobermory and Ledaig comparison Review


Tobermory and Ledaig from the Isle of Mull

Oban Harbour


This is the first of what I hope will be a series of blog posts on peaty whiskies.
Last August, as promised, we took a holiday with my parents in the Western Highlands, renting out a chalet just south of Oban in order to tour and visit the Whisky distilleries in the area.



Our Log Chalet.



Oban Distillery is in the heart of the town.


Scottish Honey
The first day I took my family up to Fort William for some tourist shopping. We got some delicious Scottish blossom and heather honeys which we thoroughly enjoyed during the Rosh Hashana to Succos season. The honey was packed with complex flavours of wax, flowers and fruity sweetness and greatly increased the simcha of our Yom Tov seudos (Festival meals). What a chutzpa to call that jar of brown syrupy sugar you find in the supermarket by the same name?
We bought three bottles of Heather honey and only one Blossom, just for comparison. The reason? Well, the Heather honey’s brown enticing colour sold it for us. The Blossom honey looked dull in comparison which fooled us into thinking that it would have less taste. In fact, just the opposite was true. The blossom honey had more character and flavour than the Heather honey. It had a stronger creamier honey taste with a more subtle sweetness. Simply yummy! You would have thought that I should have known better from all the years of telling people not to judge a whisky by its colour but only by its taste?

While my wife and daughter were clothes shopping I popped into The Whisky Shop opposite to look around. I was intrigued by a quarter cask sitting in the middle of the shop with the label Ledaig Cask Strength printed on the side.
The shopkeeper informed me that Ledaig (pronounced “Lechaig”) was a virtually unheard of peaty whisky from the Isle of Mull and they were promoting it in their shops. They were selling small 20cl medicine bottles of the stuff for £8.00. I decided to give it a try.

Medicine Bottle
We opened the bottle that evening after dinner and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
The next day we got up at 5:00am to take the ferry to Islay to visit Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich and Caol Ila.  Because my parents did not wish to get up so early they decided to take a more leisurely trip to the Isle of Mull.


Whilst there, they visited the Tobermory distillery and came away with a bottle of cask strength Tobermory.

Later that evening back in the beautiful log chalet, after dinner, we all sat down to compare these two Isle of Mull malts.

Both these Mull malts shared a vegetable salty character. However, that’s where the comparison ended. They are two very different whiskies.
Because they were both cask strength we added a lot of water to our glasses. The water from the tap in the chalet was an amazing brown colour. The owner assured us that it was perfectly safe to drink and was naturally brown because of the peat in the ground. The water was actually delicious and made a great cup of tea. It was however a bit disconcerting washing with this brown water in the morning.
Tobermory is light, delicate and herbal with a malty barley grainy base. It reminded me of fresh rain water and green vegetable juice.  We all tried to identify the vegetables. We came up with fresh spinach, fennel, parsley and water cress.  The finish is quite short, dry and briny.
In total contrast, Ledaig is full bodied, oily, big, smoky and peaty assort on the tongue. Smell and taste of seaweed, spinach, minerals, flinty with a long sweet toffee peaty finish. The more you drink it the more complex it gets. It has layer after layer of contradictory sweet and dry flavours making this a very interesting drink indeed. Definitely not for the beginner, that’s for sure.
My daughter and I both preferred the Ledaig despite the fact that my daughter is not usually too keen on peaty whiskies. Perhaps it was because the Ledaig had that delicious sweet finish whereas the Tobermory remained dry throughout. My parents on the other hand found Ledaig too heavy and overpowering for them. They preferred the lighter more subtle taste of Tobermory.
A fascinating comparison of what we thought were two malt whiskies form Isle of Mull. What we didn’t know at the time was that in fact they are the same whisky. There is only one distillery on the island and that is Tobermory. The distillery produces a peated version and a non peated version. The unpeated version they market as Tobermory and the peated version is, you guessed it, Ledaig!
This was the first experience I had had of trying an unpeated and peated version of the same single malt and what an experience it was too! Maybe it was the magic of sitting in a cosy log chalet in the middle of the Western Highlands but it was a very special occasion and one I will not forget in a hurry.

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