Once cannot review Tobermory without also tasting its other bottling of peated malt, Ledaig. Much like Springbank releases a heavily-peated malt by the name of Longrow, Tobermory makes both an unpeated malt under its own name, and this heavily-peated malt. Both also acquire peat character from the water that flows to the distillery over bogs. Unlike many distilleries in the Scottish islands, Tobermory matures its malts in a warehouse on the mainland, not on the island.
Nose: Unmistakably peated. Oily, with tobacco, iodine, vinegar, and smoke. The earthy peat of Tobermory is here totally eclipsed by in-your-face smokiness. Very similar to Islay malts, particularly the brash younger ones. The peat here is somewhat muddy and unfocused.
Palate: Medium body with some creaminess. The peat takes a step back, allowing its origin as Tobermory to show. Those industrial oily notes emerge, along with some caramel and vanilla, and a good dose of ashy barrel char.
Finish: Complex and long. Cigar ash, smoking meats, salty brine, and seaweed. Now the peat is in better harmony with the malt.
With Water: Water seems unnecessary – it makes the peat smell more like cigarette ash, to me, although it may sweeten the palate.
Overall: A nose overly dominant with peat is improved by better balance on the tongue and in the finish. While still less focused and more “dirty” (in the sense of the assorted unpleasant side-effects of peat) than similarly-priced Islays, there is reasonable complexity. For someone who loves peat but has grown tired of the standards, Ledaig offers a different take. It is especially enlightening when tasted alongside its brother-in-arms, Tobermory. Like Tobermory, Ledaig benefits from long-aging, and the older (20+ years) malts are considered to be refined and complex. For that reason, and for the unfocused, muddy quality of the peat, I don’t recommend Ledaig 10-year, although it is priced more competitively than its sibling, Tobermory.