Comparison: Red-wine cask Ledaig

Comparison: Red-wine cask Ledaig
Sinclair Series vs. Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Hermitage Finish

The second instalment of our ‘Comparison series’ – initially we looked at The Cardrona Just Hatched Pinot Noir and Solera. This time around we are looking at red-wine cask Ledaig finishes; specifically the Sinclair Series and the Gordon & MacPhail Hermitage finish.

Distillery History

As you may have seen already we are big fans of the Tobermory distillery and will hopefully be visiting later this year! Established in 1798 it is the only distillery on the Isle of Mull and is one of the oldest in Scotland. The distillery itself is located on the coast and has some great views which we were lucky enough to see on our recent virtual tasting.

Gordon and Macphail however, is a much younger whisky producer. Founded in the heartlands of Speyside in 1895, they do create their own Single Malts. However, they are potentially better known for their independent bottling. Often featuring more adventurous cask finishes, including the Hermitage cask we are reviewing today.

First Thoughts

We were first introduced to the Sinclair Series through the January Pour & Sip box. It’s unmistakable red appear and smokey nose notes proved to be the pre-cursor to what is a great dram.

This piqued our interest in red-wine cask whisky. Luckily for us The Spirit Specialist* is always on hand to provide recommendations. He suggested that we pick up a bottle of the Gordon & Macphail 2008 Ledaig – Hermitage cask finish. Once again, a fantastic colour to this whisky in a very nice show peice box and smart bottle.

Tasting Notes

Sinclair Series – Tobermory

Nose: light smoke, rose water, red berries, mulled/stewed red fruits, jam sweetness and hints of cut grass
Palate: smoke from the beginning, plums, red grapes, hints of nuts
Finish: light peaty smoke and a hint of white pepper followed by the unmistakeable notes of red fruits and Rioja

A great whisky. The peat is less punchy than some of the Islay big boys – but still plenty enough to please a peat lover. Equally, it’s a great bridge for those who are beginning to explore in their peat journey. Bags of fruit and sweetness, a dram to enjoy on any occasion with a show stopping colour. An accessible price point too.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Hermitage Finish

Nose: whisper of smoke, strawberry, grape, raspberry, vanilla, hint of brine, more jam
Palate: peaty pepper and smoke, stewed plums, caramel and brown sugar sweetness, raspberry jam
Finish: vanilla and peat smoke, wonderful waxy coating on the tongue

A very special whisky. Big props to The Spirit Specialist for the recommendation. The muted peat means that more of the fruit notes come through on the nose. However, on the palate the peat carries you through to hunts of pepper, with lots of punches from the fruit. This whisky is more of a centre piece, but given the reasonable price range shouldn’t be hidden at the back of your shelf!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Thoughts

We love both whiskies. Whilst they come from the same new-make spirit, and have both been matured in red-wine casks – they are in fact very different. The rich deep red colour from the Rioja cask of the Sinclair Series immediately draws your eye. The darker colour from the Hermitage cask implies a deeper, more mature flavour.

Certainly both deserve a place on your shelf as both are fantastic whiskies in their own right. The Sinclair Series offers a peaty, fruity and punchy dram whereas the Hermitage cask is a more refined, grown up and delicate version.

If I had to pick a favourite it would probably change on a weekly basis and depending on the occasion, certainly if you can get both and you won’t be disappointed.

*A final note on The Spirit Specialist – Ben – recently released a video comparing these exact two bottles, so go check out his tasting notes and thoughts too!

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