Archive for Port Charlotte

Congratulations, Bruichladdich!

It’s with great appreciation and some sadness that I announce that I am shutting down this blog. I’m going to shut down as follows:

  • This announcement (2011-Jul-13)
  • Shutting down comments (2011-Aug-02)

This blog was “born” on 2-Aug in 2008 and I thought it should “die” on the same day. Most importantly, this was never meant to be about me…other than chronicling my appreciation of Bruichladdich and my enjoyment of its products. I also used the blog to share my learnings about how Scotch whisky is made.

Since we’re getting close to this blog’s birthday, and since Bruichladdich recently celebrated the new ownership’s first 10 years during Feis Ile 2011, and since they’ll soon have a shiny new website, I thought it was time that I should shut this down.

Of course, on the Internet, nothing ever dies, so I am going to leave the blog up but my final post will make it clear that the blog is closed. I hope that some of my writing has lasting value. This blog was never endorsed by Bruichladdich and the name was meant simply to convey my deep appreciation of their products and attitude.

This was my first real foray into blogging, I am now much more active on my Whisky2.0 blog and the related social activities on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, I think that this blog is no longer representative of my more expansive interest in whisk(e)y. I’m now privileged to participate in a much broader conversation about whisk(e)y.

I started writing here because I was getting into Scotch whisky and I became quite attracted to the products of Bruichladdich. I have to admit, I love their brash marketing (it’s close to my style of Marketing, and although it is my profession, I can’t claim to be as good at it as they are!).

So, congratulations to Bruichladdich Distillery Company on their first 10 years, and best wishes for many more decades of success. I recommend that you follow their blog and enjoy their whisky (including the Octomore and Port Charlotte product lines)! (Oh, and they make Islay Gin, too — from local botanicals!)

Stills, Waste and Other News

In late 2009, Bruichladdich released the fourth (and final) Port Charlotte whisky: It’s 8 years old and is bottled at 60.5% ABV (cask strength). The name of this expression is “Ar Dùthchas” and it honors the long history of human habitation on this island (it literally means “land of our heritage”). PC8 will be available in the US no earlier than mid-2010 (presuming that this year will be like past years…), with 2500 cases having been released for worldwide distribution. Readers in the UK can already buy it.

You’ll remember that Port Charlotte is heavily peated (40 ppm), a description that was apt when it was first distilled on 23-Oct-2001, though the “peat explosion” of the first decade of the 21st century has seen Bruichladdich produce 125+ ppm whisky (known as Octomore; there have been several releases at different stratospheric peating levels), while Ardbeg has released the 100 ppm Supernova.

In other news, Bruichladdich has installed an unusual Lomond still (the spelling might be “Lomand”…) for undeclared purposes (though their press release did mention that Jim McEwan has designed some enhancements for it). It should be obvious to the most casual observer that the Bruichladdich team has enthusiastically embraced whisky production in all its forms. We’ll have to wait and see what they produce in this new/old still.

Bruichladdich has also taken a further step toward sustainable operations by installing an anaerobic digester device that will convert spent barley into fuel to generate electricity, possibly heating water for mashing and/or directly fueling their stills.

Bruichladdich has made admirable strides in producing a 100%-Islay product, including providing a reason for Islay’s barley farmers to grow organic grain. Now they are trying to make their whisky “green” by reusing/consuming their waste products. If their experiment proves successful, their initial capital outlay will create benefits in reduced operational expenses downstream. The whisky business creates a lot of organic waste products and it would be excellent if they could be turned into a local source of energy instead of just…wasted.

WhiskyFest San Francisco 2009

I got to experience a few new-ish Bruichladdich expressions that I have written about but never tasted. I have to say that I really loved the Resurrection 2001 dram. It was a well-balanced expression and I find the range of whiskies that Bruichladdich produces to be a continual source of amazement. This is the first (I think) product since the new owners acquired the distillery in 2001. The Port Charlotte range also dates from that time frame, and I’m not sure which came first.

I also had the 16yr “First Growth” Series – A and B. They are very different! The effect of the wood on the whiskies is very unique. I believe that all these started out as 16yrs in ex-Bourbon barrels and then were migrated to the appropriate ex-burgundy casks. These were not as fruity or sweet as Sherried whiskies, but were wonderful nonetheless. Sadly, the First Growth Series is a bit out of my price range, but I think I’ll be having a Resurrection 2001 (and a Port Charlotte PC7) before the year is out.

Finally, it was a pleasure to meet Andrew Gray, one of the principals at BDC. I’ve exchanged many emails with him in the past and it was nice to personally welcome him to my home town.

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).

It Seems Like Just Yesterday…

…that I tasted Port Charlotte “PC5” 5-year-old whisky. For a not-quite-peat-freak, that was something else! And the PC6 was (to me) amazingly evolved after only one further year in wood (I wasn’t the only one that was impressed; Jim Murray loved it!). I haven’t had PC7 yet, but I hope to have a bottle soon.

Now I hear that PC8 has won the “Spirit of Whisky Fringe” award at Whisky Fringe 2009 in Edinburgh, and sadly, I’m hearing that PC8 will be the final annual bottling of Port Charlotte. Does this mean that the 8-year-old expression will be the first Official Bottling of Port Charlotte? Perhaps….

I’ll keep an eye out for more details and let you know as they happen. The PC8 won’t appear in the US retail market for a while — probably not until 2010 if past years are any indication.

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!

Killer Deal at K&L on Award-Winning PC6

Looks like K&L is trying to make room for PC7: The price was $129.99, now it’s $89.99. The thing is, PC6 is AWESOME and is easily worth the higher price. You should probably consider using some of that Christmas money to get a bottle before they are gone.

Port Charlotte PC6

Port Charlotte PC6

Standard disclaimer: I am not being compensated by K&L for relaying this information…I’m simply a satisfied customer of theirs. I was alerted to this offer earlier today by a friend in North Carolina!