63.5 % abv
Here it is. This is where the legacy begins. Though the Port Charlotte distillery is still (at the time of writing) a far off dream, Bruichladdich has been distilling an enormous, heavily-peated dram under the name of Port Charlotte for a few years now. The first release, at five years old, is quite logically called PC5. In this, its youngest incarnation, it shows a little more of the naked new-make spirit than in its successors. This is quite enlightening for the Port Charlotte enthusiast, as even by the following 6 year old release (yep…PC6), it has moved a decent way along the path to maturity.
I won’t delve too deeply into the history of the Port Charlotte distillery here, so hopefully a few quick details will suffice. It was originally in operation under the name Lochindaal Distillery, so titled for the loch on whose rocky shores is nestled the wonderful homey little village of Port Charlotte. Sadly, in 1929, during the zealous age of prohibition, the distillery was closed. Now…more than 80 years on, plans are on the backburner for the fine folk at Bruichladdich to pull a Willy Wonka and re-open this magic factory.
The logical first question would be, “well…will this be the same whisky as that produced on this site generations ago?” The answer is a resounding…”we don’t really know”. The last known bottle of malt from the Lochindaal Distillery became memory almost 50 years ago.
Regardless…where that questions remains unanswered, the follow-up, “is this new Port Charlotte any good?” is an easy one to address.
The answer is yes. Quite simply, this is bloody brilliant whisky. Unlike any other and certainly not soon to be forgotten. Reviews of PC5 through PC8 will all be posted in the coming days, so do have a read to follow this whisky through maturation, but in the meantime let’s get back to the bottle at hand.
Make no mistake, this is a young whisky. It is sharp and jagged, rough and tough. It bears a little more fruit and seems slightly less buttery than its elder siblings, but certainly still carries the Bruichladdich signature.
The nose is explosive and overstuffed to near-bursting. Don’t get too close here…you’ll burn out your senses with too deep a first sniff. Its heavy handed billows of peat and smoke are met with the aggression of black licorice and a green thistle bite. As I said, you’ll likely still be able to pick up traces of the new-make character (if you’ve ever sampled new-make) and a vibrant fruitiness, both of which mellow in subsequent releases. Light dollops of chocolate and a bit of apple round this out in a smoother manor.
The palate is prickly as hell. Baby steps…small sips encouraged. Here you’ll get (or I did anyway) some tarry notes, sharp greens and a bit of buttery caramel. Wow, is this big! The lingering notes that finish this one are typical of the big bold peated Islay malts…tart green apple skins. Smoked apple skins, that is.
Surprisingly I find this one has some similarity to cask strength Caol Ila, moreso than its Bruichladdich brethren. Odd. Finally, in terms of balance, this isn’t quite as stable as PC6, PC7 or PC8, but please do NOT take that as a criticism. Balance is not the be all, end all. This one is probably second only to the PC6 in my books.
Can hardly wait to try this at older vintages. If you can still find it…BUY IT.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt