Jun 122019

Tobermory 12 is an “upgrade” to the entry level Tobermory core range, replacing the 10 year old, as the distillery comes back online after a major upgrade.
Going into this article, I will mention that Distell is on the whole my favorite multi-distillery producer in Scotland, with all three of their distilleries (and four brands) right near the top of my favorite distilleries. In fact, my collection has more Distell bottles in it than any other company, with a single exception of a certain Eastern Highlands distillery (I know you all know which one 😉 ).

Derek Scott, brand director at Distell, said in an interview for scotchwhisky.com for the reopening of the distillery: ‘We came to the conclusion that while the 10-year-old Tobermory was a great whisky, it really hadn’t quite reached its full potential. It’s quite a big change to an old, established brand like Tobermory, but what a difference a couple of years makes.’

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

But that isn’t the whole story. In an interview last week on scotchwhisky.com, Stephen Woodcock, who oversees operations for Distell in the three distilleries, told us the real reason for moving the very successful 10 year old to a 12:

‘Those new stills won’t change the way we distil our whisky. If you’ve got a good thing going, you don’t change it. However, what we have done is rebranded the Tobermory 10 to a Tobermory 12, relaunching it with new, vibrant packaging. The 10-year-old was a fine dram and to be honest, we were underselling it. But rather than being cynical and just increasing the price of the bottle, we’ve premiumised it by leaving the whisky for a couple of extra years in the cask. Those two years have added a nice round maturity to the whisky, coupled with a sweetness the 10-year-old was lacking. I believe the age, the quality of the spirit and the price point now all tie together beautifully.’

You can read the full interview here, but it seems pretty clear that Distell was simply unhappy with the profit margin on the 10, and wanted to push the entry level expression into the next bracket of price, to support the new ‘premiumization’ of the distillery.

So the price went up from 32 to 42 Pounds (35 to 45 Euro) for what is essentially the same whisky, held for two more years in ex bourbon casks. But how different is the 12 from the 10?

First, you might want to peruse my 2015 review of the Tobermory 10 here.

Image result for tobermory 12Tobermory 12 (46.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep gold, very viscous liquid leaves a necklace releasing very slow moving legs.

Nose: Fresh and salty, with a yeasty cerealness. Some unripe banana, with a hint of baking white bread. Further back lay some tropical fruit, with green mango and barely ripe papaya, with a squeeze of lime.

Palate: Honey and citrus peel, with some light pepper and a return of the overall sweetness. In the second sip, the spice is more complex, with white and black pepper, a hint of nutmeg and a dusting of chili, with a pinch of salt.

Linger: Pepper and some grapefruit peel, with a hint of the salt on the back of the tongue. Honey comes up from time to time in the finish too. The gullet has some spice that lingers on and on.


It seems like the maritime character was amplified over the 10, together with an emphasis on fruit. This is a good entry level dram, which will easily be a staple on my basics shelf – alongside Glen Garioch 12, Bunnahabhain 12, Clynelish 14, the Aberlour Casg Annamh and a south Islay peat monster such as the Laphroaig QC, PX or Three Wood or an Ardbeg (currently an Oogie, but they tend to rotate).

But Is it a 30% improvement on the 10? I’m afraid the answer is yes, mainly if you’re one of the bean counters at Distell….


Oct 122018

Burn Stewart Distillers is one of the only multi distillery owning companies that I can truly say that I have a real affinity for each of the four brands in the portfolio, Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig and Deanston. In fact, I have multiple bottles from each of their distilleries in my cabinet, and coming to think about it, no other distilling producer with multiple distilleries can make that claim.

It started with the move to 46.3% as a standard with no chill filtration and no coloring, and it now continues with extensive and interesting work with cask finishes. This work affords us a glimpse into what the same casks can do with different distillates at different ages, and to me that is a worthy project on its own.

I was able to taste the six 2018 releases in the Distell Limited Edition Single Malts, and will publish my tasting notes over the next week or so:

  • Tobermory 2005, 12 year old, Fino Cask Finish
  • Ledaig 1998, 19 year old, Oloroso Sherry Cask Finish
  • Ledaig 1998, 19 year old, Pedro Ximenes Cask Finish
  • Deanston 2008 Brandy Cask Finish
  • Bunnahabhain 2008 Mòine Bordeaux Red Wine Cask Matured
  • Bunnahabhain Palo Cortado Cask Finish

Starting with the Tobermory:

Tobermory 2005 / 12 Year Old / Fino Cask Finish

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Tobermory 2005 Fino Cask Finish, 12 Year Old (55.1%)

Appearance: Amber, beautifully spaced legs down the sides of the glass.

Nose: Coastal and a bit tart, like having a falafel on the beach. Malty with sour Japanese plums, milk chocolate and a touch of toffee.

Palate: Thick and viscous with malt, light black pepper and a sweetness. Nutmeg and slightly salty, with hints of fresh apricots and peaches and a far off suggestion of dulce de leche. Water brings out a bit of varnish.

Linger: Tangy, light spices on the tongue with some wood dryness. The spices linger with that fresh apricot and the tart sherry remains on the inside of the cheeks.


This has a great amount of base flavors: salty, sweet, sour and sharp and they’re really well balanced.

Very enjoyable!

May 072017

In the latest sample pack I got from Specialty Drinks there were two Ledaigs. Today’s 12 year old and an 11 year old  in a sherry cask that I’ll get to reviewing in the next few days.

Ledaig was actually the original name of the Tobermory distillery has been producing it’s dual brand since 2007, when Burn Stewart Distillers rolled it out, from peated stock they distilled after taking over in 1993. The brand has been doing well ever since. But the distillery had a tumultuous history, and has been mothballed for a total of 97 years. I wonder if we might add together the two years it’s now closed for renovation, and celebrate a distillery that overcame almost a century of mothballing.

Photo Credit: shearings.com 


Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Specialty Drinks Single Malts of Scotland Ledaig 12 Year Old 2004, Cask 1030, Yield 327 Bottles (58.1% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Hay, very slow legs coming off a sturdy, albeit thin.

Nose: Fully leaded at 58.1%, you’ll want to wait before sticking your nose into the glass. It smells somewhat younger than 12, with a hint of floral new make, signature Ledaig burnt rubber, a burnt out wooden match and hint of cigar ash (without the cigar itself). Hints of vanilla and honey in the background. I’m taking my time with it before adding water. Allowed to rest for a few minutes, it will go maritime on you with the beach and a distant bonfire.  Some water sharpens the honey and the spice, and some time brings out some sour notes.

Palate: Sweet and spicy in a full and intensive mouth feel. This needs to be toned down a bit before really figuring it out.  With a bit of water, pepper and peat in warm honey. I enjoyed the palate best after the third drizzle of water, so you have some leeway with it.

Linger: Thick honey with peat and molasses running down the gullet. Somewhat floral, with that light saltiness. The tongue stays coated with sweetness, although at the point your palate will enjoy it most, the long finish will be more ashy peat.


You can have a lot of fun with this one, as it has a long way to go with water from the 58% it has. Each time you add a little, the peat and honey play a different game. Fun dram, I’m surprised you can still get bottles.

May 032017

Young Ledaigs seem to be all the rage these days, with some very memorable sherry matured 7-9 year olds that hit the market over the past two years. This marks a certain profusion of barrels of Ledaig beginning with the 2004 vintage. The move into Burn Stewart Distillers’ hands was really good for the brand.

This expression falls into the more “classic” young peat category, enjoying great popularity nowadays. These are ex bourbon casks, two of them, which yielded 602 bottles.

Photo Credit: nikkis.org.uk


Photo Credit: masterofmalt.com

Signatory Vintage Ledaig 2008, 7 Year Old, Casks 700752+700753, Distilled 13.5.2008, Bottled 8.3.2016, Yield 602 Bottles (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light hay, very light. Thin legsrunning slowly off a necklace.

Nose: Still young, sweet peat, some new make, white pepper, earthy hints. Some fresh lemon appears and a toast made from brioche. There’s quite a sweetness to the nose.

Palate: Citrusy and dry, with a hint of pepper laced with smoke and some ash.

Linger: Sweetness on the tongue, with hints of honey and peat lingering on the tongue. Very dry


Classic youngish peat monster. Dry and easy to drink. Raw and unbridled.

Darn, I need a bottle of this.

Mar 102017

Tobermory is shutting down at the end of the month for a two year overhaul of both the stills and the visitor center, and general repairs to some of the older buildings, during which Ledaig (and Tobermory) whisky will be available as normal, including the special limited releases we see pop up like the 19 year old we’re tasting today. It seems from an interview Mark Gillespie did with Alan Wright on WhiskyCast that Tobermory is about to undergo a serious premiumization, joining the ranks of Mortlach and Bladnoch.

Photo Credit: independentconnoisseurs.com

This is a 19 year old, finished in a Marsala cask, and is a very surprising whisky in it’s intensity.


Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Ledaig 19 Marsala Cask Finish, Bottled 2016, 2,160 Bottles (51% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Bronze, with thin legs peeling off a pretty sturdy necklace.

Nose: The Marsala sweetness makes the maritime peat feel almost like a that series of Laphroaigs bottled in sherry casks on 22 September 1998. It’s dirty on the nose, cerealy and  very salty, with notes of saltwater toffee, green leaves, and hints of melted butter.

Palate: Full bodied, sweet and salty, with malt, espresso coffee, a whole kumquat being bitten into and some cooked cloves.

Finish: A lot of peat sticks on the tongue, dry with a hint of sourness and some spice. The salt remains with you, this is one hell of a maritime dram.


This is a whisky you can’t ignore. The brine and the wine are a killer combo, and this whisky is one of those drams you won’t forget. You won’t necessarily like it, but you’ll never forget it.