Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
We’re on the eve, so to speak, of the release of the newest run of Laddies. This time, pure Islay Barley Port Charlotte and Octomore. I’ve yet to try the former, but the latter really is a knockout malt (and peated to an unprecedented 258ppm! Though, I’m going on record as saying it’s not necessarily any peatier or smokier than earlier editions, despite the boost in phenols). At some point we’ll get ’round to reviewing these, but in the meantime let’s continue with one of our perpetually-late-to-the-party write-ups of an older edition. Last year’s Scottish Barley Port Charlotte.
It’s always a treat to engage a new expression of Port Charlotte. As many of you are likely aware, Port Charlotte is not a distillery, but a brand name under the Bruichladdich banner, produced for a good part of the year at this once-again iconic distillery on the western shores of Islay’s Loch Indaal. Port Charlotte is the distillery’s middle ground malt, sitting somewhere in between the mild and unpeated (or nearly unpeated, depending on the expression) Bruichladdich spirit and the eyewatering bog beast Octomore. Make no mistake about it, though, this is a heavily peated whisky.
For this particular release, Bruichladdich has upped the abv from the previous version’s 46%, and – I can only assume – dropped the average age of the whisky in the bottle, as this certainly seems a bit younger than the Port Charlotte 10 y.o. While I love that they made the first change, I’m less impressed by the move to NAS. This makes no sense to me, seeing as how they proudly proclaim Octomore’s five year old designation right on the bottle. Personal gripes aside, this is a fine dram. Well-constructed by Mr. McEwan and the gang, and is certainly money well spent.
Bruichladdich has gone on record several times now saying that nothing would change subsequent to the Remy Cointreau buyout, and that they would be left to their own devices. I’m not convinced. Yes, they are still knocking out rather frequent releases in their inimitable craft stylings, but these releases seem to be nothing more than minor variations on a theme. Tweak the abv, adjust the age, declare the provenance, different finishes, etc. Though the distillery’s modus operandi of blitzing the market with uncountable expressions was often maligned in the ‘presses’ (and I use that term very loosely) I miss the days of infinite cask fuckery and shelves groaning under the weight of countless quirky Bruichladdichs. It was just a little more exciting, to be honest. While I think the whisky coming out of Bruichladdich is consistently better overall now, I do mourn the loss of artistic unpredictability.
And man, do I miss the widespread availability of the untouchable PC cask strength series. That was Port Charlotte at its apex.
I guess what I’m saying is that this is not the Port Charlotte I fell in love with. It’s more like a really decent knock-off. Think Zeppelin with John Bonham vs Zeppelin with Jason Bonham. One was an absolute megalith. Towering, thundering and taking the world by storm. The other was making nearly all of the same sounds, but without the lasting resonance or element of monumental surprise.
Nose: Lovely downhome farmyard aromas. Licorice. Smoking rubber. Cola with a squeeze of citrus. Smoke and peat, of course. Key lime. Creamy, buttery caramel. Port Charlotte is simply unmistakeable. This is no shocker of a nose.
Palate: Great, bold delivery (as we’ve come to expect from this range). Licorice, cola and rubber again. Wet, smoking piles of hay. Salty pie dough. Lemon meringue pie. Buttery notes and oily mouthfeel. Long finish.
Thoughts: This is an end-of-the-night kinda dram. An absolute sandblasting of the taste buds.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
But is it a “replacement” of the 10 YO, or of the NAS An Turas Mor and its ilk? I was thinking it was the latter, but maybe I’ve just not connected the right dots. The 10 YO is still available around me.
I understand that the regular Laddie Scottish Barley does replace the old 10, but I hadn’t heard that same idea about the Port Charlotte line.
Pretty sure the 10 y.o. Port Charlotte is gone. Along with the An Turas Mor, Peat Project, Peat, etc. Will double check though.
Bruichladdich has removed everything with an age stement from the range.
The newest Port Charlotte is the Port Charlotte Islay Barley, NAS.
All these NAS whiskies are replacements for the aged range. What is unclear is whether the Port Charlotte Bruichladdich or Octomore Islay Barley replaces the Scottish Barley expressions of these malts as replacements.
I would think—based on nothing but my own vague impressions—that the Islay Barley couldn’t support the volume required to replace the Scottish Barley. Could Islay farms really supply enough barley to support all of Bruichladdich’s flagship malts?
You know, given how popular the PC cask strength series was, I’m really surprised that Remy hasn’t started it all over again. They’re already at 50% ABV with this one. Why not just leave it at full cask strength and call it PC 2014 or whatever? Now THAT, I think, would be a huge move to distinguish them from their Islay competitors. Their whiskies are already non-chillfiltered and non-colored; make them non-diluted too!
I really do think that’s an awesome idea. And not just because I would enjoy it as a buyer. Bruichladdich, I’m sure, has a different audience than, say, Glenlivet, and I think most of their buyers would be all over a core CS line. And it’d give Bruichladdich a new card to play to regain their “progressive” or “fiercely independent” or whatever claims.
I couldn’t answer in respect to the volume of Barley the Islay farmers can supply to Bruichladdich, but think it is a noble enterprise either way. This distillery is singlehandedly responsible for a lot of jobs and contributions to livelihood on the island.
And regarding the PC CS series…Man, I’m right with you there. Absolutely the path they should take. They keep the Octomore at cask strength, so why not PC?
Just got a bottle the other day. For $50 + tax, this is a steal! Very tasty and very peaty, just like I’d expect if they made a highly peated Laddie 10. I’d go along with the 87, but I’m anxious to see if it improves. I also agree that cask strength could make this a 90+ rating.