With age, my personal whisky preferences have altered drastically – after some years of enjoying rich, fruit (sometimes even floral) drams. Now though, at the risk of sounding as though I’ve given in to toxic masculinity, I’m of the general credence that (dependent on occasion, of course) the smokier the whisky, the more desirable.
Distilled with the intention of becoming a sophisticated, peated Islay dram, Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt expression is a tribute to the men who once worked within the Lochindaal Distillery. Now disused, the Lochindaal Distillery ran for 100 years from 1829, located in the village of Port Charlotte – two miles south of Bruichladdich. On visiting Port Charlotte in 1885, British brewing and distilling historian Alfred Barnard wrote: “Peat only is used in drying the malt, fired in open chauffeurs”. Bruichladdich, no less, was set up in 1881 to produce the purest, unpeated spirit possible – fuelled by puffer-supplied coal, juxtaposed to local peat typically synonymous with Islay whisky.
A change from Bruichladdich’s Classic Laddie expression, the Port Charlotte Scottish Barley expression is crafted with 100 per cent Scottish barley and peated to a heavy weight of 40ppm. A multi-vintage curve, crafted from casks and hand-picked by Head Distiller, Adam Hannett, the whisky is trickle distilled in Bruichladdich’s cathedral-like still house, then matured in Port Charlotte’s original old stone warehouses before being bottled back at the distillery, using Islay spring water.
Discounting the youthful packaging, evocative of Superdry aftershave, the liquid has a clear, pale gold complexion. On the nose, a heavy clout of peat smoke is, unsurprisingly, unmistakable; married with some classic Bruichladdich floral top notes. Elsewhere, aromas of honey, licquorice, vanilla and dates are joined by some subdued apple, leather and tobacco. A profound malt character, with plenty of caramel and cereal flavours, develops on the palate, complete with a complex flavour profile of vanilla, honey, licquorice and orange – harbouring some very slight pine and cinnamon. With a relatively high ABV of 50 per cent, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley has a smooth, buttery finish with some lingering peat smoke.
An interesting expression, Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte is intentionally sophisticated – graceful, even. A natural evolution from the distillery’s lighter, elegant drams, this whisky does taste quite young, however, and lacks some of the finishing char and ash notes synonymous with the big hitting, characteristically smoky Islay whiskies.
Further information on Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley can be found here (RRP £47).
Photo: Aron Klein