It is a well-known fact that Bruichladdich was generally producing unpeated whiskies for the latter half of the previous century, primarily due to its importance in several blends as well as the then owners’ desire to produce an Islay whisky without the infamous peaty and smoky notes.
While they may have had their reasons for doing this, the decision to do so brought with it a vertiable bucketload of scorn and criticism, the most apparent of which was that Bruichladdich wasn’t adhering to the proud Islay heritage of producing the smoky whiskies which were very much a part of the island’s DNA.
This practice continued until the turn of the millennium, when the distillery (which had lain silent from 1994 to 2001) was resurrected by Mark Reynier and Jim McEwan. Jim, who was born and raised on the island, was one of the many who felt that Bruichladdich needed to once again start making peated whiskies.
And Jim being Jim, he then set out to make it a reality.
In the years which have gone by, the distillery’s core range has been augmented to include three distinct brands:
- Bruichladdich – This covers all the unpeated distillery offerings
- Port Charlotte – This covers most of the heavily peated distillery offerings
- Octomore – This covers the super heavily peated distillery offerings
Over time, the distillery has released a multitude of offerings and this has also shaped the core range somewhat. The distillery’s primary focus is the barley, with the oak maturation and the time taken also being central to the distillery’s plans.
While the majority of the expressions released in recent years have either been rather young or NAS, the distillery is committed to producing a core range which an age statement and has been working towards this goal since its resurrection in 2001.
The distillery released an 8 Years Old offering for Duty Free late last year and followed it up with three limited edition 10 Years Old offerings which represented all three brands. The difference between the previous releases and these editions was that rather than create an expression from a vatting of different age statements, the 10 Years Old offerings were created from casks which were all of the same age.
This allowed the distillery to provide a snapshot of what they were capable of and the results have been encouraging and downright delicious to say the least. The distillery’s focus with regard to bottling at a higher abv of 50% and without chill filtration or colouring is also welcome as it fits into their greater goal of advocating for transparency within the whisky industry.
In recent years, the distillery has also experimented with small batch offerings which showcase the influence of the barley as well as the various types of casks in shaping the final product. These releases have fallen under a special category known as “Micro Provenance” and the distillery has focused on releasing them periodically.
Readers of this blog would remember that I have previously reviewed the samples which were presented during the Bruichladdich #LaddieMP4 tasting and this week’s review focuses on the next in the series, #LaddieMP5, which focuses on three rather interesting expressions from the Port Charlotte brand.
The three expressions are:
- Cask #1999 – distilled in 2005 and matured in fresh Bourbon casks (56.9%)
- Cask #0013 – distilled in 2005 and matured in Bourbon and Bordeaux casks (59.9%)
- Cask #0005 – distilled in 2005 and matured in Virgin Oak casks (63.5%)
These expressions were peated to 40ppm in terms of the phenol specification in the barley (the phenol specification in the new make would of course be lower, but this measurement is usually not provided) and matured for 10 years in their respective casks before being bottled at cask strength under the supervision of head distiller, Adam Hannett.
So, let’s dive right into the review!
Port Charlotte 2005 10 Years Old (Matured in Bourbon casks, 56.9% abv)
Colour: Deep gold
Nose: Initial entry presents a bouquet of fresh barley, wet slate, wool soaked in orange oil, menthol and camphor, with barley sugar, grist, white wine and beeswax following soon after.
Furniture polish, vanilla, bourbon, Madeira cake and a distant whiff of sea salt also emerge over time and are chased by hints of oak, cinnamon and allspice. Overall, the nose is rich and well-rounded. (21/25)
Palate: Initial entry is sweet and barley-forward, with an abundance of spice such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and black pepper emerging along with some oak. Barley sugar, mint lollies, beeswax, honey and bourbon-esque notes develop over time and are followed by sea salt, slightly burnt orange peel and wet slate.
The camphor and menthol hints detected on the nose appear late on and there is a distant hint of smoke and just a tiny whiff of peat. (21/25)
Finish: Medium to long on the finish, with barley sugar, malt and the wood spices relatively dominant. There is also a late development of vanilla and cream to round things off. (19/25)
Balance: Quite a complex and well-balanced dram, with a multitude of complexities apparent as the dram aerates naturally without the addition of water. The mouthfeel is oily with some drying elements towards the end. (20/25)
Port Charlotte 2005 10 Years Old (Matured in Bourbon & Bordeaux casks, 59.9% abv)
Colour: Burnished copper
Nose: Perfumed, fresh and oak on initial entry, with fresh barley, malt, slight peat, sea salt, cinnamon and cloves emerging. Winey notes from the Bordeaux maturation emerge later on and integrate well with the sweet malt.
Black pepper, green chili and a slight whiff of pencil shavings make an appearance at the very end. (22/25)
Palate: Sweet barley malt and barley sugar combine well with the Bordeaux hints as well as the wood spices detected on the nose and hints of sea salt, oak an pencil shavings emerge after some time. These elements are underpinned by the presence of gentle peat, black pepper and just a touch of creosote. (21/25)
Finish: Medium on the finish, with sweet malt, oak, wood spices and Bordeaux combining well to create a well-rounded final flourish. (20/25)
Balance: A very well-balanced and immensely enjoyable dram which starts off oily but becomes increasingly dry towards the end. The bordeaux influence in this dram is pronounced but does not overpower the other elements. (21/25)
Port Charlotte 2005 10 Years Old (Matured in Virgin Oak, 63.5% abv)
Nose: Austere, mineral-esque and restrained on initial entry, with a nose that is more reminiscent of an aged gin rather than a whisky! There are some similarities with The Botanist in this one, although it is definitely heavier and peaty.
Pencil shavings, sage, thyme, wet sand and sloe berries combine with the sea salt and there is a hint of coastal peat lingering in the background. The virgin oak maturation also accentuates the raw power of the new make as well as the barley. (20/25)
Palate: Very much like a gin on the palate, with the pencil shavings, sage, thyme, wet sand and sloe berries intermingling with the sea salt, fairly lively oak, barley, cloves and mint. Not as austere as on the nose, but still very different from the other two samples. (21/25)
Finish: Long on the finish, with the gin-like notes and oak being the most dominant aspects followed by the pencil shavings and cloves. (20/25)
Balance: Considering how austere this expression was on the nose, the development in the glass allows for it to be much more expressive on the palate, if given ample time to do so. The mouthfeel is generally drying and this expression is something that you’d definitely not come across very often! (21/25)
Overall, these three samples provided a rather interesting look at how the Port Charlotte base spirit is influenced by the casks in which it has been matured. While the barley is definitely the focal point of all three expressions, the casks have provided an immense amount of character and it has helped define the direction of the final product.
These three expressions are sure to intrigue and delight fans of Port Charlotte as they provide an experience that is somewhat similar and yet also somewhat divergent from what they would generally expect when savouring the heavily peated representation of the distillery’s core range.
As it stands, these expressions are sold out worldwide due to there only having been 900 sets made available back in October. However, those based in Singapore would be able to sample them at The Single Cask, where a flight of these three expressions is being sold for $55 (inclusive of service charge).
Until the next review, have a great week ahead.
More reviews: https://www.thesinglecask.sg/blogs/news