Archive for PC5

I Got My PC7!

I’m still afflicted with a cold, so my taste buds won’t appreciate the subtleties when I do a vertical tasting of the PC5, PC6 then PC7. I’ll give it at least a week, presuming I don’t pick up any more germs on this trip.

For my own records, here are “just the facts” for the Port Charlotte range so far:

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 5yr

  • Name: Evolution
  • ABV: 63.5% (cask strength)

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 6yr

  • Name: Cuairt-Beatha (in English: “Walk of Life”)
  • ABV: 61.6% (cask strength)

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 7yr

  • Name: Sin an Doigh Ileach (in English: “It’s the Islay way, and may it never change”)
  • ABV: 61.0% (cask strength)

I was talking to my liquor supplier (Ken Chalmers at Beltramo’s) who told me he heard that the PC7 wasn’t quite as good as the PC6. The few online reviews indicate that it’s a very good dram (well, maybe it’s indeed not quite as good: The PC6 was spectacular, after all!). Ken hasn’t had the PC7 yet, so maybe I’ll share some of mine with him.

I’d be curious to see what Jim Murray thought of it, since he really liked the PC6 but I can’t find out until the 2010 Whisky Bible is available in the USA. 😦 I’m toying with the idea of ordering a signed copy of the Whisky Bible, direct from the UK, but that would almost double the cost. Worth it? Dunno…. Jim Murray’s signature is free (of course!), but the £10.99 price (about $18) — plus shipping — is much more than the cost in dollars, probably $16. And I don’t pay for shipping since I am a member of Amazon Prime.

Finally, the word on the street still is that the PC8 will be the last of these limited release annual bottlings of Port Charlotte. I predict that the Port Charlotte expression will initially be an 8yr and will be in regular ongoing production. I expect that the folks at Bruichladdich will hold back some of each year’s production for experimentation and aging beyond 8 years. That’s just based on my understanding of their history and their penchant for experimentation. Given the enthusiastic response to Port Charlotte so far, and given the success of the renewed brand, I expect great things.

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More on Whisky Fringe and PC8

Whisky Fringe’s tasting in 2009 included 200 whiskies, and the winner was based on the public’s voting, not that of whisky “experts.” Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte 8-year-old (“Ar Dùthchas,” or “Land of Our Fathers”) won it all.

I love it that a major whisky tasting happened in a church. Only in Scotland, I guess. 🙂 Come to that, I wonder if I could open a branch of that church here in California?

I was really impressed with PC5 and PC6, and based on Jim Murray’s ratings, I can’t wait to taste PC7, which he gave a very slightly better rating than the PC6. Bruichladdich has to be congratulated for executing so well on resurrecting Port Charlotte. It should be an excellent dram for years to come. For 40 ppm phenol content, it’s very drinkable and exceptionally well balanced (speaking of PC6, the oldest I’ve tasted).

A Wonderful Tribute

Peat is all the rage these days in Scotch whisky. It seems that whisky lovers can’t get enough of it. Bruichladdich has produced Octomore, first made from malt peated at 80.5 ppm phenol, now made from malt peated at 131 ppm. Ardbeg just released their Supernova, peated at about 100 ppm. Both of these are significantly higher than Port Charlotte, peated at about 40 ppm. Peat is also prominent in the Bruichladdich 3D, 3rd Edition (3D3 for short), which first shipped in 2006. It was produced in tribute to Norrie Cambell, the last traditional peat cutter on Islay. Bruichladdich has this to say about 3D3:

Bruichladdich 3D3

Bruichladdich 3D3

3D3 is the third version of 3D – the peated Multi-Vintage Bruichladdich. This single malt selected from several vintages is even more peaty than the previous two releases due to the debut of the mighty Octomore – the heaviest peated whisky in the world at a whopping 80.5 ppm. Combined with other versions of the Bruichladdich it makes for an awesomely complex and layered version of Bruichladdich: peat without the medicine. Listen to Jim McEwan’s Podcast here. For more information click here. For a tasting note please click here.

I got this bottle today as an early Valentine’s Day present. I’m a very lucky man! This is one smooth malt. The peat is very well balanced and the fruit is not overshadowed. Yes, it’s complex, but not shockingly so. There isn’t overwhelming sweetness (the color might make you assume there would be a lot of sherry sweetness, but there is nothing approaching treacle), and the mouth feel is slightly oily, which I suppose is what helps leave such a nice finish.

I paid just over $60, and I think that’s a good price for such a well-executed product. Yes, there are peatier whiskies on the market, but speaking for myself, I don’t buy exclusively based on phenol ppm. When I am in the mood for whisky, peat is not the only thing that determines which I will select. The 3D3 is a good example of a whisky that uses peat as an ingredient to complement the rest of the product, not to dominate it. (Now, I’m not saying that Octomore or Ardbeg’s Supernova are just peat with no other flavor. In fact, I’ve heard that they aren’t as peaty as the numbers make it sound. I would like to be able to sample them and I’ll see what I think at that point.)

The 3D3 is peaty, but it’s a gentle peatiness compared to, for example the Port Charlotte PC5, which is quite a stormy beast! Despite the fact that they both rate around 40 ppm phenols (the 3D3 was a combination of several different malts, vatted together so the ppm value is approximate), there is a vast difference in flavor. The more different whiskies I try, the more I realize that they can’t be reduced to numbers. There are bad whiskies, to be sure, but I luckily haven’t purchased any to date. Among those that I own, or have tasted, there are so many nuances that I can’t imagine how hard it is for professionals to rank them. For me, I can just say that this is an interesting Bruichladdich because it’s a blend of old and new, and the peat aspect is very well executed, to my non-professional palate.

To Norrie, I say: Slainte!

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?