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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Port Charlotte 'The Peat Project' (Bruichladdich) Whisky Review

Port Charlotte is a small coastal town on Islay, south of Bruichladdich distillery, on the western shore of Loch Indaal. The town was once home to Lochindaal distillery, which closed in 1929 after over 100 years of production of heavily-peated whisky. This served as inspiration for Bruichladdich distillery to produce a heavily peated whisky, which they named 'Port Charlotte'.

Bruichladdich produce three styles of whisky (plus 'The Botanist' gin, which is actually very good-might have to review it!), Bruichladdich, which is essentially un-peated, Port Charlotte, which is heavily peated to around 40ppm, and Octomore, which is very / super heavily peated, at up to 169ppm phenols (see here for ppm explanation).

Their Port Charlotte bottlings were initially released periodically, starting at five years of age with PC5, then PC6, and so on, up to PC11. These were all bottled at cask strength and are highly collectible (and thus expensive and hard to find), with the exception of 'Port Charlotte 10 Year Old', which was bottled at 46% as an addition to Bruichladdich's 'core' range. Confusingly, there was also a PC10 cask strength bottling released around the same time. There have also been non-age statement (NAS) bottlings of the Port Charlotte whisky, named An Turas Mor, The Peat Project, Scottish Barley, and Islay Barley.

Port Charlotte 'The Peat Project' (Bruichladdich), NAS, 46%, Islay, Scotland.
Non-chill filtered, no added colouring (definitely). A mix of multiple vintages. No details on maturation time, techniques or casks stated, but I suspect only bourbon cask maturation, and mostly young spirit in the mix. 

(tasted neat and with water)
Colour: Very pale gold, think champagne.

Texture: Long, slow-moving legs. 

Nose: Medicinal peat, salt, a little smoke. Sour sherbet, and some musty, under-ripe banana. With water, some more smoke, pepper, and more tropical fruit in the background.

Taste: A big peaty wallop! Some dark, thick smoke, and some sour sherbet, but also quite hot for the relatively low ABV (46%). Not much going on really, even with water added there is very little complexity. The peat and smoke are there in force, but while fighting each other for the win, they end up cancelling each other out in a very short, but brutal, fight. 

Finish: Surprisingly short, some peat, but also still some heat! Water helps to calm it down, but there is not much happening here to keep me interested. I have had this bottle open for almost a year, and have tasted it repeatedly over that time, and not a lot has changed. Still hot, aggressive and one-dimensional. 

Score: 2 out of 5. 

Notes: Very disappointing. No question I think that young spirit has predominantly been used here, and there has been hardly any detectable cask influence. Very young and aggressive, at cask strength I imagine this would have been unpleasant. There is little to no development, and considerable heat, and water does not calm it as much as it should. Bruichladdich's tall stills usually add complexity and 'gentleness' to heavily peated spirit, but they have not had much effect here. 

From my favourite Laphroaig in the last review, to my least favourite Bruichladdich in this one! I have tried the Port Charlotte 'Scottish Barley' bottling, which is also NAS and 46%, since, and it is far, far better. Likewise the An Turas Mor, although I have not tried it myself, received positive reviews before being replaced by The Peat Project. I suspect both of these had more older spirit, and more cask influence.

This Peat Project bottling is priced, at least in Australia, at a similar point to Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10, and even the unpeated Bruichladdich 'Laddie Classic', and it just does not hold a candle to them, it's not in the same league. If you see it on the shelf, look past it towards the Port Charlotte 'Scottish Barley', which far as I can tell has replaced 'The Peat Project' anyway, and for good reason.