Our trip to the Bruichladdich distillery ended with the acquisition of our prized possession: a Valinch distillery-exclusive 500 ml bottle of Sherry cask Port Charlotte. It is easily Michael’s favorite bottle and within my top 5. With growing alarm every passing day, we note the line declining and have been rationing out teaspoons every week to keep the bottle alive. But alas, all good things must come to an end – so we have decided to do a full review of all of the Port Charlottes that we have acquired in a vertical tasting series.
We begin with the “Standard” expression from the tasting set we acquired as a baseline. Over the next few posts, we will be reviewing the rest of the Port Charlotte bottles we have (two travel exclusives and one distillery exclusive).
Port Charlottes are the “Heavily Peated” line from Bruichladdich, which initially focused on unpeated Islay whiskies. It is peated to 40 ppm (phenols per million); for reference: the standard expression for Lagavulin is ~35 ppm, Laphroaig is 40 ppm, and Ardbeg is 55 ppm respectively. Since then, Bruichladdich has released their super peat monsters (the Octomores) clocking in regularly at over 200 ppm.
What I find that Port Charlotte does really well is balance its peatiness with sweetness and not overwhelmingly go toward “peat-only”. Because of the saltiness (which you can taste even in their unpeated expression and is due to its very coastal location), the flavors are enhanced even further (from the cooking world, salt can enhance sweetness significantly).
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley 2007
- Score 7.57.5/10
Nose: Vanilla cream, floral, fresh bandaids, lychee, mangoes, berries, whipped cream, roses
Palate: Buttery caramel, some salinity and iodine, heavy cream, mangoes and yogurt, butterscotch, pecan pie
Finish: Lingering effect of toffee extract – but it is not chemical or unpleasant
Overall: 7.5/10. Really good whisky. I find the Port Charlotte standard expression very satisfying (I love their cask finishes even more) but this is up there. There is a creaminess to the palate and the smoke is a gentle bandaid type instead of an overwhelming peat bully.
TLDR;: Creamy salted vanilla
Bought for: ~$60/miniature set at Jackson’s Wine & Spirits in Lafayette, CA
- ABV: 50%
- Cask: American and European oak
- Age: No Age Statement
- 100% Scottish barley, 40 ppm
- Non-chill filtered, coloring free
- Bruichladdich was our favorite distillery tour on Islay (read more about our visit here). It is also the largest private employer on Islay (even more than Laphroaig or Lagavulin) due to its reliance on manpower versus machines.
- It is famous for its Octomore line, which is known for having extremely high peat levels – even up to 200 to 300 ppm (its 08.3 has 309 ppm). Its peated Port Charlotte line is 40 ppm.
- Prides itself on being highly experimental and for trying to feature terroir (even releasing a “terroir-ed” gin called Botanist)
- Built in 1881 but mothballed in 2000 – before it was purchased by its fan and aficionado Mark Reynier. Now owned by Remy Cointreau.