Recommended use: Enjoy neat
Malt Mileage Rating: ★★★★★
Type: Single malt whisky
Origin: Islay, Scotland
Cask No: 14/098-35
Bruichladdich make no secret of their desire to be known as “progressive Hebridean distillers”. So, after acquiring the Port Charlotte distillery in 2007, which had been closed since 1929, Bruichladdich decided to make the heavily peated Port Charlotte malt from barley grown on Islay (being the island home of both Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte).
The barley was harvested in 2008 from farms at Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill & Sunderland. That barley was then dried using peat smoke, during which time the barley absorbed phenols in the peat smoke to 40 PPM. In December 2008, after the barley was stepped in hot water to make wort and, then, fermented into a wash by adding yeast to the wort under the right conditions, that wash was distilled. The distilled spirit then matured by the shores of Loch Indaal.
By using barley grown on Islay to make this Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich provide a glimpse into the concept of terroir; that very wine-centric idea that a wine gets its flavour not only from the grapes from which the wine is made, but also from the land in which the grapes are grown. Any Cognac aficionado will swear that terroir matters, which explains all the hype around Cognacs which are made from grapes grown in the chalky soil of the Grande Champagne region of Cognac in France. It makes sense that the kind of barley that is used when making whisky may also contribute to its flavour profile.
The nose is aromatic, and smells of peat, fine white ash, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, cereal, banana bread and dried flowers. That impeccably balanced harmony of aromas may describe the nose, but on the palate a storm brews; this whisky becomes brutal peaty perfection. On the palate the powerful peat brings smoke, ash and tar – like smoking the nub of a fat cigar – and crystalline coastal rock salt. Behind the thick violent haze of smoke are moderating sweet caramels, dried fruit (paw paw, dates, banana chips), minty toothpaste and splintery wood. On the finish the peat fades, and allows the salt and oak driven caramel and vanillas to gently nurse the palate back to life for another onslaught of peat. Find lingering honey, lemon, cracked black pepper and Fisherman’s friend. For the peat lover, this is like a drink of cold water after a dehydrating day digging ditches: long-awaited, eye clenching, gratification.