Those of you who’ve made the pilgrimage to Bruichladdich distillery are likely well aware that the gift shop/visitor center is home to an ever-changing cask of Laddie single malt, spigoted and ready for pouring. The idea being that the ultimate souvenir of your distillery visit has to be a hand-filled bottle of Bruichladdich, straight from the barrel. And in actual fact there are now two barrels on offer to those so inclined.
When we visited in late September of this year the choices were 12 year old Bruichladdich – unpeated Laddie, that is – matured in a first fill sherry cask and 12 year old Port Charlotte matured entirely in ex-bourbon wood. The former was not to my tastes, being slightly over-wined in my opinion. The latter, however, was a rather special malt. And I had to have one. Or three. Well…one for me and two for the club.
The Bruichladdich team have given these casks the appellation ‘Valinch’, named for the tool typically used in pulling samples from the barrel. Not 100% sure of the rationale behind the choice of name, as there is no valinch involved in the process, but…such is.
Novelty aside though, I think what most appealed here for me was affirmation that the Port Charlotte line is one that ages gracefully. Peated heavyweights are often at their best in youth, but we’ve seen Port Charlotte to be a bit of a hydra, showing multi-facets. This particular barrel was further validation of my affections.
I think we all know the deal with Port Charlotte by now, aye? Bruichladdich call this their ‘moderately peated’ line, but c’mon…40 ppm is hardly moderate, is it? Not only that, but if you’ve tasted the PC series you’ll know just how big and rich these drams are in terms of smoke and peat reek.
This particular spirit went into wood in 2003 and only met glass circa late 2016. Twelve years in a good naked bourbon barrel shows me just what I’d hoped to see: Port Charlotte softening and calling forth flavours from the wood to harmonize with the phenols. At a dozen seasons we’re seeing a pretty damn decent balance. Love it.
Bottling your own can be either a nifty souvenir or pretty gnarly way to get your hands on an extremely singular malt, but caution for those heading over to Islay…this little experience will set you back quite a few of your hard-earned ATM-dispensed food stamps. I think these Valinch bottles, at 500 ml, used to run about £50, but are now £75. A bit pricey for a 12 year old malt (and again…only 500 ml!), but man…how do you say no when faced with the prospect of corking up your own hand-filled?
Nose: Rubber and smoke. A hint of cherry. A lot of spice and a lot of fruit. Seems somewhat devoid of that butyric (read: buttery) note I associate with Port Charlotte. 12 years is obviously a good age for this one. Chocolate and peat. Obviously quite some smoke.
Palate: Ok…a little more buttery here. The smoke is more restrained than expected. …at first. Fennel. More smoke now, with rubber, smoked oyster, salt water and burnt lemon. The fruit suggested by the nose is absolutely crushed by the enormity of peat and earthy tones. Tastes like a heavily charred bourbon barrel.
Thoughts: More Port Charlotte on the nose than the palate (if that makes sense). Neat as hell single cask outing. Sadly, available only at the distillery.
– Images & Words: Curt