Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte is:

  • the name of a defunct distillery in Scotland that disappeared around the start of Prohibition
  • the name of a town in Scotland (on the island of Islay) about 2 miles away from the main Bruichladdich distillery site
  • the name of a new expression of Bruichladdich that recalls the tone of the original eponymous spirit

In 2001, Bruichladdich began distilling the new make spirit for the rather heavily peated Port Charlotte single-malt Scotch whisky. In an unusual move, Bruichladdich released “Port Charlotte 5-Year-Old ‘Evolution’ (PC5 Evolution)” so that interested drinkers could follow the progress of the spirit as if they were right there at the distillery, tasting the spirit as it ages.

Technically, the Scotch Whisky Association (standards body for the Scotch industry) says that distilled malt spirit must be at least 3 years old before it can be sold as “Scotch Whisky,” so this 5-year-old Port Charlotte is already whisky. People more experienced than myself have said it’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s up to the distillery to decide when to call it done. There is a lot of excitement around Port Charlotte, so it must take a degree of self-control to not sell too much, too soon. Any spirit that is bottled now is spirit that won’t age anymore.

I heard about the Port Charlotte on the WhiskyCast and ordered a bottle from Beltramo’s. Ken, the Beltramo’s buyer had not yet heard of it. I am pretty sure I had one of the first bottles in the western United States. The PC5 Evolution is more peaty than I was used to, but I have grown to love it, and it’s been a bit over a year now since I got my PC5 — PC6-Cuairt-Beatha (means “Walk of Life”) is now widely available. I have to conserve my PC5 so it lasts until the Port Charlotte “final” product is shipping. Will that be a 10-year-old? 12-? 15-? Who knows? When Jim McEwan says it’s ready, I’m first in line to buy it!

In the mean time, I hear rumors that PC7 is heading for bottles in the Fall of 2008, which means I’ll have a bottle sometime around my birthday in 2009 (perhaps March, if I’m lucky).

Port Charlotte is only one of about eight different “new make” spirits that Bruichladdich is producing. The variety of expressions being produced by Bruichladdich is astounding. It’s been said that you could drink a different Bruichladdich expression every day for a month without repeating yourself. It’s pretty clear that this distillery is committed to variety and excellence in every area of Islay Scotch production. Port Charlotte is only the latest exemplar of these attributes. What I’ve tasted of Port Charlotte so far, I have really enjoyed.

The next post will be about peat. What is it? Where does it come from? Why do Islay malts tend to be peaty whereas other Scotch appelations less so? Why is Bruichladdich simultaneously the least and most peaty Islay Scotch?

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