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Whisky Review #101 – Port Charlotte 2004 Highland Laird

 

When it comes to Bruichladdich distillery, most people tend to overlook Port Charlotte as a brand and instead focus on the non-peated version – Bruichladdich and the ridiculously peated version – Octomore. Port Charlotte is the middle sibling, and as all middle siblings know, they are often overlooked. However, the distillery produces fantastic Port Charlotte and those who have not taken the time to discover Port Charlotte; you should seriously do so.

We drank many expressions from Port Charlotte, especially the official bottling. The peak of our Port Charlotte adventure, however, came in the form of the abovementioned bottle – the Port Charlotte 2004. A 12 years old expression bottled under the Highland Laird label by Bartels Whisky, it is a beast of a Port Charlotte! Bottled from a single bourbon barrel (#900) at cask strength, only 225 bottles are available worldwide.

We tasted it blind, and these are the reasons why it impress us so.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Light Gold
ABV: 57.3%

Nose: Cereal notes are prominent at the first nose, sweet and fulfilling. It reminds me of a beautiful Bruichladdich I once had. I thought it was a Bruichladdich, but then the peat smoke appears after a couple of minutes. Gentle at first, and then slowly gaining prominence. Floral notes, vanilla cream and lemon peels surface after the peat smoke, and the cereal notes continue to linger. All of these beautiful aromas mingle delightfully to give a fantastic nose! (18/20)

Palate: Sweet cereal notes, gentle peat smoke and floral notes come together at first with a tinge of sharpness from the high abv. Then vanilla cream and lemon peels come in to add complexity to the already beautiful notes. As I swallow, the peat smoke expands to engulf the palate for a while before mellowing down back to sweetness. At this point, I am no longer in doubt that this is none other than a peated Bruichladdich – Port Charlotte! (18/20)

Finish: The finish is long and yet subtle. The sweetness lingers from the palate, and there is this oakiness to the finish. However, it is not astringent or dry, making the dram extremely satisfying. It took me more than a couple of minutes to identify its identity as a Port Charlotte due to its complexity, but it is fantastic! (18/20)

Body: It is a superb balanced dram that is easily one of the best Port Charlotte I ever had so far. Well-rounded and balanced on all its notes, it also is a fitting expression to represent the distillery. (37/40)

Total Score: 91/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is one of the best Port Charlotte I ever had. The other one which impressed me much was a MoS Port Charlotte, but this easily tops that with the amazing complexity. I suppose Port Charlotte still works best in a good ex-bourbon barrel, and perhaps, the guys at Bastel Whisky get this right on every note! Well done! Now, please excuse me while I go hunt for a bottle or two of this to bring back home.” 

Geek Choc: “I never like Port Charlotte – I think it has this baby puke note in it. Flora put me through many torturous drams of Port Charlotte, and I never like any of them – until this one! We tasted it blind, so that may have helped to reduce my bias, but this is the best dram of PC I ever had! It changes my opinion of Port Charlotte, and I think I will be happier to try new PC that Flora puts in front of me in future.”

 

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Whisky Review #93 – Dramfool Port Charlotte 15 Years Old

 

There isn’t much information that I could find online about Dramfool. What I do know is that Dramfool is the brand name of an independent bottler and that the owner’s name is Bruce Farquhar. According to Bruce’s LinkedIn Profile, he is an experienced engineer who is now the director of Dramfool.

This review focuses on one of Dramfool’s recent releases for the Islay Whisky Festival Exclusive Bottling that happened to be Dramfool’s 13th release. It is a Port Charlotte, distilled in December 2001 and bottled in December 2016. Dramfool bottled the whisky at cask strength of 58.3%. There are only 195 bottles available.

How does it taste like? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: White wine
ABV: 58.3%

Nose: The first notes I got was coastal salt and peppery spice. There is light vanilla cream in the background. Sweet barley notes surface after a few minutes. Gentle peat (soot?) wafts into the nose after 10 minutes, and lemony notes appear underneath the peat. (17/20)

Palate: Sweet barley comes quickly but peppery spice attacks right after the sweetness. After the spice mellows, coastal salt, vanilla cream and lemon notes appear all in succession. The gentle peat comes at the back of the throat. (16/20)

Finish: Medium finish with sweet barley and hints of vanilla. (16/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with a typical Port Charlotte profile. It is decent, but not something that I would wow over. It is probably not something that I would want to spend money to buy a bottle. Nonetheless, Dramfool sounds like an interesting IB, and I would want to explore more of its releases. (33/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, it was a nice dram, but not something that gets me excited. A typical Port Charlotte profile is pleasurable but not fantastic. I guess I was looking for more as I had a great experience with the MoS Port Charlotte previously. You can find our review here

Geek Choc: “Port Charlotte was not high on my list usually, and this is no surprise. I think it is a simple dram, balanced but not complex enough.”

 

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Whisky Review #83 – Port Charlotte 2002 – MoS

Malts of Scotland (MoS) is probably not a stranger to you if you are a fan of independent bottlers. MoS is a consistent award winner as an independent bottler and has won many different awards across the whisky industry. The most prestigious of all awards is likely the “Independent bottler of the year”.

Thomas Ewers heads MoS and earns the reputation of a “whisky talent” at a young age. His first foray into whisky was in 2003 when he had his first single malt. The second dram of a 10-year-old Aberlour sealed his fate as a whisky lover and eventually an independent bottler.

The bottle under review today is a Port Charlotte distilled in 2002 and bottled in 2013. Matured in a bourbon hogshead, it has been known to give rise to tasting notes such as “baby vomit”, “rotten milk” and “spoiled milk” at the bar where we had this.

With such a fascinating reputation, let us get started to see if we can find the “baby vomit”.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Amber
ABV: 57.4%

Nose: Smokey and sweet. Dark, dried red fruits with smoke. It is gorgeous indeed. The nose boasts of notes typical of a sherry cask, but this is a bourbon hogshead! Isn’t that amazing? Raisins, dried figs, stone fruits are all presented in the nose. Sweet and beautiful indeed! (17/20)

Palate: Sweet and flavourful, with smoke in the background developing beautifully as we drink. Raisins, sultanas, figs and cranberries combined in a sweet and fruity palate. Hints of raspberries are detected in the back of the throat. That sourness from the raspberries may be the answer to the “baby vomit” and “spoiled milk”! (18/20)

Finish: Long and smokey! Cranberries and raisins linger forever and ever. Gets a little dry after a while and almost feel like an elegant, old red wine. (18/20)

Body: This is balanced brilliantly. The smoke is consistent from the nose to the finish. Add the raisins and dark fruits, and you get a divine drink! (36/40)

Total Score: 89 points

Comments:

Geek Flora: Well, well, well, this is an exciting tasting of a Port Charlotte. I like the uniqueness of this whisky, and it is an excellent example of how independent bottlers can make a whisky better.

Geek Choc: I must be honest and say that I am in the camp of those who think of “baby vomit” when I tried this PC. Not my favourite for sure. 

 

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Bruichladdich – Progressive Hebridean Distillers

Bruichladdich – one of the most famous distilleries on Islay – happens to be one of WhiskyGeeks’ favourite distillery as well. While we have yet to visit this top-notched distillery, we just have to pen something about this progressive, Hebridean, distiller.

History of Bruichladdich Distillery

The history of Bruichladdich is comparable to a roller coaster ride. The Harvey brothers – William, John and Robert – established Bruichladdich in 1881 on the shores of Loch Indaal, on the Rinns of Islay. They built Bruichladdich stone by stone and designed the building with an efficient layout.

They installed uniquely tall and narrow-necked stills and other state-of-the-art equipment that was unheard of in those days. Bruichladdich was one of the top notched distilleries in Islay. Sadly, the Harvey brothers were better distillers and engineers than they were businessmen. The distillery struggled against the bigger players, and soon, it fell into trouble. A fire broke out in 1934, and shortly afterwards, William Harvey passed away. The distillery was sold several times after 1936 before getting mothballed in 1994. The reason for mothballing was “surplus to requirement”.

The Rise of the Modern Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich distillery saw a gleam of hope when it was purchased by Mark Reynier of Murray McDavid with the funds from a group of private investors in December 2000. Official records said that he brought the distillery for £6.5 million, but in fact, he brought the 8,000 casks maturing inside the distillery for that amount! The buildings were practically free. Right after the purchase, Mark hired Jim McEwan, the whisky legend who was, at that time, working with Bowmore Distillery, as the master distiller and production director.

The next few months saw Bruichladdich risen from the grave as Mark and Jim dismantled and renovated the entire distillery. While most of the exterior of the building was dismantled and renovated, they refurbished the old, Victorian equipment and restored them for usage. Mark was determined to retain as many of the Harvey equipment as possible, and they managed to do just that! Today, these old pieces of machinery stood proudly in the distillery as the hallmark of the history of Bruichladdich.

In 2012, Rémy Cointreau bought Bruichladdich Distillery and remained as the owner today.

Philosophy at Bruichladdich Distillery

Production at Bruichladdich with Graham Hayes (Picture Credits)

Bruichladdich is a non-conformist distillery, rejecting many of the “whisky production theories” of the day. Believing that industrialisation and self-interest have strangled the whisky industry, Bruichladdich strives to be different.  Instead of following the “rules” of the days, the people behind the distillery set their mind to be innovative and creative distillers.

The people at the distillery believe that whisky needs a character to convey authenticity. They believe in variety, innovation and progress. Bruichladdich is not after a title of homogeneity; it is after a change. The distillers think that the world needs a challenger, one that will stand in the face of blandness and denounced it as such. Hence the distillery often surprises their fans with exceptional, new creations.

Bruichladdich also produces a gin – The Botanist. Similar to what they do for their whiskies, they make sure that The Botanist is different from gins presented by other companies. If you have yet to try a Botanist, it is time for you to try!

The Land, The Water and The Ingredients

Bruichladdich works closely with the people living in Islay as well as the land that forms Islay. Islay farmers planted barley in response to Bruichladdich’s call for an Islay Barley, and others built sheds to dry the barley for the distillery. The land yields the barley; the mountains and lochs produce the water source for mashing, distilling and bottling. Most importantly, the people of the island come together to create whiskies that speak of its origins. It is also the largest, independent employer in Islay.

Bruichladdich believes passionately in terroir – authenticity, place and provenance. That is a heritage that they are proud of.

Bruichladdich Range of Whiskies

Some of the whiskies made in Bruichladdich Distillery (Picture Credits)

Bruichladdich produces three different brands of whiskies in the distillery. They have the Bruichladdich brand, serving up unpeated whisky. Then, there is Port Charlotte, a heavily-peated whisky at 40ppm. For the peatheads, there is Octomore, the most-heavily peated whisky in the world.

Bruichladdich

Classic Bruichladdich is unpeated, floral and sophisticated. It is a natural whisky which is non-chill filtered and colouring free. The whisky is made purely from Scottish barley, although there are some expressions distilled from Islay Barley and Bere Barley.

This range of whisky is living proof that Bruichladdich rejects traditional labelling of the whisky-producing regions in Scotland. Produced in an area where peat is the norm, the Classic Laddie challenges the label of what constitutes an Islay whisky.

Port Charlotte

The range of Port Charlotte is a tribute to the men who once worked in Lochindaal distillery from 1829 to 1929. It is peated to 40ppm and still retains the classic floral complexity of the typical Bruichladdich. The most exciting nibbles about Port Charlotte is that the original stone warehouse of Lochindaal distillery in Port Charlotte still stores the maturing spirits now.

Octomore

Octomore is famous; or in the distillery’s own words, it has taken the world by storm. It was a “what if” idea that turned into a reality. Named after the Octomore farm on the hill above Port Charlotte, the whisky is a legacy to the farm that used to be a distillery. In 1816, Octomore farm was a self-sufficient distillery. It grew its barley, cut its peat and distil its whisky on the farm. While the spark burned only for a few years, Bruichladdich Distillery carried the legend till today through the Octomore range of whisky.

Octomore is known as the world’s most heavily peated whisky. One of the latest expression, the Octomore 8.3, is peated to 309ppm! Contrast to expectation, the whisky is aromatic, floral and sophisticated. You will never expect something so delicious!

Looking to the Future

It is no secret that Bruichladdich continues to be a progressive distillery in today’s whisky world. We trust that Bruichladdich is striving harder than ever before to produce authentic, good-quality whiskies for the world.

We look forward to new releases from Bruichladdich.  As always.

 

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