Crikey it’s been busy around here lately! Father’s Day is upon us and we also have imminent releases coming out the wazoo! Sometimes you simply have to drop everything though, for a short while at least, because, just occasionally, a very special whisky demands that.
A 42 year old Ledaig? Yeah, that’ll certainly do it. This 1972 vintage is the oldest whisky ever release of the peated single malt from Tobermory distillery, and Burn Stewart informs us that the earliest possible date they could release another Ledaig that’s at least 40 years old would be in 2036! Special, this most definitely is.
The most exciting thing to ever say “To Jake” on it? Yes, quite possibly.
We’re huge fans of a good Ledaig here (pronounced ‘led-chigg’), a malt that proves both that big, peaty whiskies don’t have to come from Islay and that often shows wonderfully at relatively young ages. What would it be like after 42 years though? Can it master the years? Would that intense peat be diminished during maturation as could reasonably be expected? We would see.
1972 was the year the distillery re-opened (named Ledaig distillery at the time, confusingly), having closed back in 1930, hence this vintage is now the very oldest available. The distillery closed again just a few years later, however, and it wasn’t until 1996 that peated whisky was actually produced once again at Tobermory distillery. (So 1996 + 40 years = 2036. See, that all works out neatly.)
Ten years ago 32 year old Tobermory (unpeated) and a 32 year old Ledaig (now used to refer to the peated single malt) were both released from the 1972 stock, both Oloroso Sherry cask finished (presumably the same González Byass casks the new release was moved into in 2001). And now here we are. The final painstakingly nurtured stock, and a release that’s been anticipated by whisky fans for years.
Matured in many different casks, including the aforementioned Oloroso, Master Distiller Ian Macmillan says that an “intricate and unusual process” was used. “Under close supervision and moving homes, this liquid has been allowed to develop into a truly unique malt.”
Tasting Note for Ledaig 42 Year Old Dùsgadh 1972:
Nose: Gorgeous smoky dates at first, the complexity then becomes apparent, with honey dripped raisins, whole walnuts, Walnut Whips, a big waft of cinnamon, orange cream Revels. So much honey! And beeswax. Plums, toasted almonds, Malted Milks, Crunchy Nut Clusters, toffee apples. The smoke is actually reasonably subtle, earthy and vegetal – in fact, petrichor may be more accurate on the nose.
Palate: On the palate, the peat is far more prominent, impressively so, but this is still a hugely rich whisky with honeyed nuts, treacle and blackcurrant coulis. If you keep it in your mouth, this slowly gives way, delightfully, to my Mum’s side of the family’s ‘Ultimate Chocolate Cake’, made with delicious bitter cocoa and a layer of apricot jam.
Finish: Sultanas, orange and raisin muffins, marmalade and drying smoke, becoming quite sooty after a few minutes, but also retaining that earthiness from the nose.
Overall: So has it mastered the years? Well it is gorgeous stuff, retaining very impressive smokiness for a 42 year old, although slightly less so on the nose than has perhaps been made out. Just as impressive is the vibrancy throughout with fresh plum and vibrant blackcurrant and apricot notes. The answer is therefore a resounding yes, and Dùsgadh is a hugely complex, unique single malt.
500 bottles have been produced (a mixture of 70cl and 75cl) and the price is just over £2,000 (as high as £3,500 in some places). The copper packaging is a nod to the stills used to produce this spirit in 1972, back when they were new. Hence Dùsgadh is Gaelic for ‘awakening’. In 2014, these stills were retired and the copper was used to make the cards (or “momentos”) that are also included within the presentation box pictured.
Each card entitles the owner to a bottle of Ledaig 10 Year Old Dèanta (Gaelic for ‘finished’) in 2024, a special bottling of some of the final distillate to run from the stills. A touching piece of continuity and history to look forward to a decade down the line, but not something that really impacts the value of this bottling of course. Ledaig is a Gaelic name too by the way, meaning ‘safe haven’, Tobermory being a harbour village.
Just in case you don’t have two or three bags o’ sand laying about but would still like to taste the delights of some peated single malt from Tobermory distillery, we do happen to have recently released a Tobermory Heavily Peated 16 Year Old 1998 – Single Cask* that may suit you… We’ll also have 3cl Drinks by the Dram samples of the Dùsgadh available shortly.
*Yes I know, further confusing naming conventions, but we weren’t allowed to call it the other thing.