Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 4

4 12 2015

It’s times like this that I sympathize with people who think whisky is confusing.  The full title of tonight’s scotch is:  Gordon & Macphail Connoisseurs Choice 1999 Ledaig (from Tobermory Distillery) Single Malt Scotch Whisky.  Good luck with that.  Let’s unpack.  Remember when I said yesterday that whisky from any particular distillery in Scotland gets around and how some companies act as negociants sourcing pre-made whisky from elsewhere and then bottling it themselves?  The Ubermensch version of those companies are the independent bottlers, whisky brokers extraordinaire, who release from dozens to hundreds of different whiskies under their own labels, but who (unlike the artisan blenders like Wemyss from yesterday) also provide the details of the source distillery on the label.  So you might be able to get a 12 Year malt from a certain distillery’s own label but then also get a 12 Year malt from that same distillery under an independent bottler’s label.  It’s weird.  Gordon & Macphail is one of the pre-eminent independent bottlers of scotch whisky, with over 300 single malts in its lineup, and its Connoisseurs Choice portfolio is an array of rare single malt whiskies from various distilleries, many of which would not otherwise offer a single malt expression.  This particular bottle comes from the lesser-known Ledaig distillery, which changed its name to Tobermory Distillery a few decades back.  So the label name above reads [Independent Bottler] [Portfolio Name] [Vintage Date] [Old Distillery Name] [Current Distillery Name] Single Malt Scotch Whisky.  Good thing it’s tasty.

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This is the first unabashedly peaty scotch in the calendar, to the point where you might think it comes from the peat haven of Islay, but Tobermory is in fact located on another island just north called the Isle of Mull (which I’m secretly hoping is where mulled wine comes from).  The label just says “Islands”, possibly because the Isle of Mull isn’t trendy enough to get its own mention.  The Ledaig was a disarmingly pale greenish colour that displayed no visual hints of the power to come.  However, the first sniff brought an immediate blast of peat-induced scents:  mechanic’s shop, diesel oil, catcher’s mitt, shoe polish, funk, but also hints of sweet tropical fruit that kept the whisky from coming across as harsh or dirty.  The taste was both beautiful and old school; charred, smoky and medicinal, reminiscent of cigars and old leather armchairs, but also bright and spicy, with candied pineapple, crystallized ginger and Bananas Foster.  There’s almost some furriness to the texture too (from the wood tannin of the aging barrels, I would guess), which adds to the whole sensory experience.  The priciest whisky to date at $120, it’s worth every penny.  Currently in the calendar pole position, without question.

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