Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.16.22Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 57.8%
Cask: European Oak (Cognac Cask)
More Info: WhiskyBase

Hello, hello! A cask-strength Port Charlotte release…

The PC series proved immensely popular in travel retail and now we’re onto vintages: the 2007 Cognac Cask. Always complex, never boring, and a very tempting reason to book a holiday this year.

Nose: Loving the dry, earthy Port Charlotte smoke here! Drifting through the peat we get aromas of mango pulp, dried apricot, peach, kiwi, mandarin and lime skin. Great savoury notes too – soft rubber soles, smoked cheese, roast potatoes, rosemary, and rock salt. I’ve been nosing for ten minutes and it’s still fascinating.

Palate: Campfire smoke, candied orange, more mango pulp, plums, raspberry then a whoosh of sea salt and the drying, mineral-rich peat steps in with juicy sweet malt, vanilla, and milky coffee. Wowser.

Finish: Ashy and savoury with salted cashews.

Excellent stuff, this. Reminds me of a PC valinch bottling I picked up on Islay – full of distillery character with fruit, smoke and malt beautifully interwoven and a complete bargain for the RRP.

I think Adam Hannett’s found a sweet spot here agewise for cask-strength Port Charlotte.

Can’t wait to see what comes next…

The Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 is available from World Duty Free for £67.99.

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Port Charlotte 2002 (Whisky Broker)

IMG_20150528_100205345Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2002
ABV: 55.8%
Cask: Gran Callejo wine cask
Bottler: Whisky Broker
More Info: WhiskyBase

An absolute treat tonight! Whiskybroker have released a single cask Port Charlotte aged for twelve years in a Gran Callejo (Spanish) wine cask.

Nose: Salty and herbaceous, with dry earthy peat mud. Well-seasoned roast potatoes and sweet fried cabbage. Ready-salted crisps. Waxy jelly beans. Red apples, and juicy plum flesh. Fruit-flavoured rolling tobacco.

Palate: A sweet-yet-salty malt biscuit flavour starts, with a pronounced peppery peaty tang. Orange candy and citrus pith. Dry savoury notes of old bitter tobacco, leaf litter, and hazelnuts. With water the peat calms right down, the texture becomes soft and silky, and sweet white wine grape flavours come through.

Finish: Long, tingly and salty with a chewy mouth-coating peat residue, and a little cigarette ash. A touch of soap foam at the very end.

Mmmm, very more-ish! Another lovely wine-matured Port Charlotte with all those earthy, salty, sweet tobacco-rich notes.

These were £55 but snapped up within about 36 hours of release – sorry, but it’s all gone! 😦 Keep an eye on Whisky Broker’s website, Twitter and Facebook for details of releases. The good ones do tend to go fast.

Port Charlotte 13 (RABT)

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2001
ABV: 62.8%
Cask: Jurançon wine cask
Bottler: Rest And Be Thankful
More Info: WhiskyBase

This’ll be the third bottling I’ve tried from those mysterious people behind Rest And Be Thankful. The two Octomores they produced were very interesting and this one promises to follow suit.

At any rate, you’ll not see a Port Charlotte much older than 13 years these days because there wasn’t any made before 2001 so this is a treat for me – the oldest ever peated Bruichladdich whisky I’ve tried.

And it’s whacky wine barrel finished to boot – I’m no wine buff so I know nothing about Jurançon. Let’s see what it’s like…

Nose: Salted cashew nuts, crispy bacon and black pudding, dark chocolate, mineral oil, burning pinecones with dry soil and ashes.

Palate: Runny caramel mixed with a huge handful of sea-salt. Fragrant Kaffir lime leaves with spices: cayenne pepper, cinnamon and cumin with a touch of nutmeg. There’s an element of dry white wine in there, though I’m not sure I’d have noticed without knowing it was a wine maturation – it’s chalky and floral with a tart, bitter edge to it. Gets winier with water.

Finish: Very long and tingly with lingering smokiness, leaf litter, minerality, and the bittersweet taste of mild rolling tobacco. After a while, the taste of swimming pool water (though that’s not as bad as it sounds).

Wow – another indy bottling of Bruichladdich whisky that just piles on the weird and wonderful flavours.

This is a winner for me. It’s much more savoury than other wine maturation Port Charlottes (the PC6 was a sweet shop on the palate). Very long and lip smacking, and very drinkable at full strength. Great wood influence and a slightly calmer Port Charlotte peat smoke.

If you’ve a spare £129, you can pick this up from Master Of Malt.

Terroir: Tasting the Port Charlotte/Octomore Islay Barley

I was wandering around the local Booths the other day, and what should I see on the shelves but the Islay Barley releases of Port Charlotte and Octomore! In a bloody supermarket, no less. Well played, Booths, well-played.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 08.34.59

And, as if I need any more excuse to taste a pair of whiskies from those progressive folks on the shores of Loch Indaal…

Terroir

Bruichladdich have made a big deal of “terroir” for a number of years, and have already had several Islay barley releases of their unpeated spirit on the market for some time. There’s already a Scottish Barley release for Port Charlotte and Octomore, but now we finally have versions of each using only barley grown on Islay itself.

Terroir is a French word with no direct English translation. Essentially, it means “from the earth” and describes the unique character that a place imparts on a wine, a cheese, a whisky, or any other organic creation.

The now retired Duncan McGillivray “in the field”

The Port Charlotte is a vatting of spirit produced with barley from several farms on the island; the Octomore is the ultimate expression in terroir, having been grown in a single field (“Lorgba”, if you must know) on Farmer James Brown’s farm, Octomore (after which the whisky itself is named).

At this point, I have to mention that in-spite of being made with 100% Islay barley that was mashed, distilled, matured and bottled on Islay – the barley did make a brief trip to the mainland to be malted and smoked. I expected it to have been done at the Port Ellen maltings, but apparently not. So, the accolade for the whisky that’s 100% made (from seed to bottle) on Islay still sits with Kilchoman for their 100% Islay bottlings.

Oh well, as I’m sure NASA like to remind people: being first isn’t everything. I’m pretty sure nobody else has ever released a whisky that can trace its origins back to a single field!

Port Charlotte Islay Barley

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2008
ABV: 50%
More Info: WhiskyBase

This is a 6-year-old Port Charlotte, though it’s not officially age-statemented on the bottle.

Like other distilleries of late, the marketing department seeks to make the packaging as attractive to new drinkers as possible so the age isn’t in evidence (perceived as a bit alienating and old-man-ish). Bruichladdich are usually very forthcoming on the details for their whiskies*, though, so there’s no secret about when it was distilled or when it was bottled – you just have to do the maths yourself.

Seems a fair compromise to me. And, let’s be honest, the tin and bottle do look fantastic. Time to drink!

Nose: A walk on the clifftops. Muddy boots, beeswax, lavender, wet flowers, with dusty icing sugar, barley sugar, salty sand, pear skin and a little tropical papaya.

Palate: Sweet and salty, with a rich and buttery maltiness. Grassy notes with honey and lemon throat sweets, ripe pears and a rising crisp dry peat smoke.

Finish: Toasted oak, black tea.

I really like this. This is a tasty PC bottling with enough going on with the nose and palate to contend with the flavour of bottlings that are twice its age. No fancy wine finishes, either, just straight-up ex-Bourbon barrels for that clean, maritime, peaty profile around a buttery, slightly-citrus core spirit.

Very well priced, this. £48 in Booths, Media City. Similar prices online from the usual suspects.

Octomore 06.3 Islay Barley

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2009
Age: 5 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 64%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Quite dark in the glass for a five-year-old. Thick line of oil sticks on swirling. At 64%, this is serious stuff!

Octomore releases always push the limit when it comes to peating levels but this is a whopper even compared to others in the range. Typical peating levels are 167 parts of phenol per million – this release weighs in at 258PPPM!

Nose: Savoury, cooked meats, sweet Summer hay, sea spray, thyme and lavender. Quite grassy, and nowhere near as phenolic as you’d expect for such an intensely peated malt.

Palate: Very malty to start. Intense medicinal rush, calms down to reveal a little barbecued banana. Lots of deep, earthy, vegetal and herby notes among the peat. There are sweeter, raisiny, chocolatey, coffee notes in there too – odd since I don’t think the spirit’s seen the inside of a sherry barrel.

Finish: Salty butter on toast, liquorice root, smoked cheese. Long – very long. Lip-smacking ages after it’s gone.

Phwoar. This is going down beautifully… It’s comforting, but fierce. Earthy, but sweet too. So many outdoor notes of herbal vegetation – you can nose it for hours and still find more character appearing.

Love the frosted glass on the bottle, too. It harks back to Octomore 04.2, “Comus”, and looks… well, sexy as all hell.

Not cheap at £130 in Booths, though online retailers seem to be pitching it at £145-£155 so it’s a decent saving and not exactly an order of magnitude more expensive than the Scottish Barley Octomore.

In Closing

As usual, Laddie have made a a couple of honest, charming, thought-provoking drams that are a true snapshot of the place in which they’re created. I like the Port Charlotte more than the Scottish Barley release, and it’s definitely good value if you want an interesting peated dram.

The Octomore, though, is utterly glorious. So much going on in the glass, and devastatingly easy to drink even at full cask strength and with all that peat. Velvety, sweet, savoury, herbal, earthy and lip-smacking on the long finish.

I poured a glass for myself and my folks recently. My dad’s a huge peat freak so I knew he’d be intrigued, but my mother typically only goes for a nip of something mild and sweet. To my great surprise, she loved it, and asked for another dram! If that isn’t a rousing success, I don’t know what is…

I often wax lyrical about Bruichladdich but I have to say, hand on heart, the Islay Barley Octomore is the best Octomore I’ve ever tasted. Bravo!

 * Except perhaps when it comes to what Jim puts in the Black Art

Mango Chicken Vindaloo, SMWS 127.40

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 21.52.19Distillery: Port Charlotte (Bruichladdich)
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2002
Age: 12 years old
Bottles: 159
ABV: 63%
Cask: Refill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

My gosh – it’s another peaty number from my favouritest distillery in the whole wide world. And to boot, it’s a bottling from those civilised folks up in Leith – the Single Malt Whisky Society.

I’m not a member of SMWS myself, but I’m a big fan of their bottlings and style of presentation. The language they use to discuss the whisky is very sensory and a world apart from the traditional means of discussing the malty-liquid-of-life.

Let’s dive in!

Nose: Icing sugar, play-doh, fried pineapple chutney, crusted salt, rubber boots, pear syrup, with a herby touch of sweet basil. May be the power of suggestion, but I can make out a spicy element – Sweet capsicum, cinnamon, and paprika. No chilli peppers, though.

Palate: Sweet, sour, and syrupy to start, with peat fire kicking in at the end and fading gently. Boiled sweets, barley sugar, kaffir lime juice, Caramac-esque notes of milky toffee, caramel, and chocolate, with a little bitter coffee. Peat smoke, oil, and tar on the tail. Yum – loads going on.

Finish: Slightly drying. Gentle warming spices. Ginger, clove, black pepper and a little more crusted salt.

Oooh, yes.

I love Port Charlotte at any age – it’s full of complexity at five years old, at twelve years old, and everywhere inbetween. And, consistently tasty with (or without) fancy finishes. Here it is shining in a refill barrel with a crowded-house of a flavour profile.

I didn’t try it with water, because it’s pretty spectacular at full cask strength, and it doesn’t burn or over-impose itself. This is something else I love about Bruichladdich – they can consistently release whisky with a high ABV and it feels soft and buttery in the mouth, brimming with delicate flavours.

Mmmmmm, yes. These SMWS members might just be onto something…

Thanks very much to Ben Cops for the sample.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC5

This, I’m very proud to say, is one of those bottles that has pride of place on my whisky shelf. This is genesis. The first in the Port Charlotte “PC” series – the PC5.*

A monster of peat, matured in sherry, with the expertise, craft, and love of Mr. Jim McEwan. Let’s taste this little beauty.

Nose: Very herbaceous. Thyme and rosemary with a sea-salt edge. Distinct from the herbs is a candied fruit note, presumably from the sherry cask – I get grapes, tart raspberries, and apples with maybe a whiff of pear skin. There’s something very desserty about it.

Palate: Peated chocolate. An explosion of fruity syrup, wrapped in herbaceous peat smoke. Lemon, tangerine, sherbet dips, rounding off into peaches, marmalade, plums and dates.

Finish: Sea salt, bitter dark chocolate, black pepper.

Overall….. phwoar. This is the unbridled power of Islay vegetation, crystallised inside a sweet, candied amber resin of fruit. Tonight I’m enjoying this with a slab of orange dark chocolate and this is ludicrously good – a full body experience, rattling the senses.

No water needed here, in spite of the 63.5% ABV. This is the West Coast Scotch Malt experience as it was meant to be. Raw, riotous, powerful, and exquisitely wrapped in urbane, sensuous sherry notes.

My word. This is primal, pure, unrestrained whisky paradise.

*Though I will say, I didn’t crack the bottle open. The sample came from those lovely folks at WhiskySample.nl

Port Charlotte PC6

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2007, Distilled: 2001
ABV: 61.6%
Cask: Matured in Bourbon, finished in Madeira wine.
More Info: WhiskyBase

Many feel that Port Charlotte whisky, distilled and bottled by Bruichladdich, is the epitome of modern Islay whisky.

It has all the coastal notes and the peaty pow you expect from Islay, but is also an elegant and complex spirit. Bruichladdich is famous for its slow distillation in Victorian equipment (seriously, their still room looks like a scene from a steampunk graphic novel!) and their standard releases before Port Charlotte were only ever very lightly peated (around 5PPM or less).

Launching as the new kid of peated Islay whisky back in the noughties, the Port Charlotte series has been a cult hit ever since. Bottlings tend to be very difficult to source as they were all limited production, with wide global distribution (and some travel retail), so it’s a real treat to get hold of any.

You can pick them up on the secondary market fairly regularly but they’ll set you back three or four times their original retail price.

I sourced my sample from WhiskySample.nl a wonderful, family-run business in the Netherlands. The site is in Dutch (but most modern web browsers will automatically translate for you) and they do ship internationally. Well worth perusing their stock if you’re on the look-out for something unusual to taste!

Anyway, on to the good stuff…

Nose: Not as fierce as expected. Icing sugar and candy, and a rich buttercream.  The wine influence has imparted a thick and floral honey scent as well – really very rich. Some medicinal TCP, but faint compared to your typical Islay (it’s more like a sherbet tingle than creosote or bonfires). Some soft coastal notes of salt and seashells in there too.

Palate: Madeira’s strong and sweet to start, with a rising peat (and ABV!) burn. Very viscous and luscious mouthfeel, a typical side-effect of Bruichladdich’s slow distillation. I get notes of mandarin, blood-orange and grapefruit running through the middle, with some more icing sugar and peaty sherbet.

Finish: Some soft smoke (as opposed to peat) comes out as the tingle calms down and savoury notes of liquorice, hazelnut, and rolling tobacco develop into a long finish (five minutes later, I can still taste hazelnuts!).

Water: It gets a lot peatier (on the nose and the palate) when you add water! I think I prefer it unwatered, with that lovely, thick, creamy mouthfeel.

This is the second of the PC-series I’ve tried (the first being PC5) and I’m well impressed. Even as a self-confessed Bruichladdich fanboy, I challenge any seasoned peat-head not to enjoy this dram. All I can say is, it’s a big shame that these bottlings are so rare and that I hope the distillery put some more young Port Charlotte out in future.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a cracking dram at ten and twelve years old, but these younger releases have brilliant and unusual characteristics that seem to fade as the spirit matures.

Here’s to the power and beauty of youth!