Welcome to KWM Whisky Advent Day 4!
The 4th day of KWM Whisky Advent features our first independent bottling, the Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1999. Independent Bottlers are firms that bottle whiskies from a range of distilleries under their own label. Some of these firms, like Gordon & MacPhail (G&M), are over a century old having gotten their start as grocers. It may come as a surprise to many single malt drinkers, but prior to the 1960’s single malts were not easy to come by outside the Highlands of Scotland. Distilleries almost exclusively produced whiskies for blending, iconic brands like Glenffidich, Glenlivet and Bowmore only started promoting their own whiskies as single malts in the 1960s. However in the Highlands, grocers like Cadenhead and Gordon & MacPhail purchased casks which they sold to customers through their shops.
Most independent bottlers today bottle casks that they purchase on the secondary market or direct from the distiller, when they are willing to sell them. Unfortunately there is not as much care going into cask selection as some might like to believe. Many of the have to bottle whatever they can put their hands on. Gordon & MacPhail has a special and longstanding relationship with many distillers giving them special access to top quality whiskies. In many cases Gordon & MacPhail will have filled their own cask(s) with the distillery’s whisky, rather than rely on the latter’s supply. This is one of many the reasons why Gordon & MacPhail is regarded as one of the most respected independent bottlers. More reasons to come in a future post.
This Gordon & MacPhail has been bottled under Gordon & MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice line. From the Distillery: “In the mid-1960s Gordon & MacPhail took the unprecedented step of launching a range of single malts under the brand name ‘Connoisseurs Choice’. Until this time, many of the whiskies the range featured would not have been available as single malt. Today, Connoisseurs Choice retains this exclusive nature with a range of rare and sought after single malts from distilleries throughout Scotland.”
Our day 4 whisky is a peated Tobermory, which the distillery and G&M call Ledaig, pronounced Led-chig. Tobermory Distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland, founded in 1798 in the town of the same name on the island of Mull. The town is built around a beautiful small bay which has been safe anchorage for millenia. In 1588 a Spanish Galleon, allegedly the Florencia, took refuge in the harbour. It caught fire under suspicious circumstances and sunk after the powder magazine caught fire. Legend has it the ship was laden with gold the Spanish would need to pay their soldiers and buy local allegiances after landing in England. Calgarians reading this post may be interested to learn the city of Calgary takes its name from Calgary Bay, a remote, sparsely inhabited white sand beach on the west coast of Mull.
G&M Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1999 – 46% – Refill Remade Hogsheads- Exclusive to KWM in Alberta – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: maple crusted walnuts and thick sliced un-burnt bacon; at first I found the whisky doughy with banana and apples before the maritime and delicate smoke elements take over; Palate: fresh, malty, creamy and very smoky; there is honey, flambeed banana, creamy oak and more apple (green); the smoke builds along with some juicy orange and decadent spices; chewy malt, sea salt and barley sugars with late building peat and clove; Finish: the clean crisp smoke dominates the finish overpowering the fruits and oaky tones; it is long, warming and coating; Comments: not as medicinal as some Ledaigs I’ve drank before, it is a bit more balanced on the palate, but the finish is all about the smoke. – $120
If you are wondering where the dark and mysterious photo was taken, I took it on the way to Gambier Island in Howe Sound, where I am conducting a tasting tonight. And where I wrote the above tasting note!