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