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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Bruichladdich / Port Charlotte PC7 Whisky Review!

Until recently, I have looked at Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte range as a bit of an ugly duckling, compared to similar offerings from other distilleries, and especially compared to Bruichladdich's own Octomore range.

This was based on my tastings of 'The Peat Project', and it's replacement, 'Scottish Barley', the former is one of my least favourite peated single malts, and while the latter is a huge improvement, it still did not wow me like I had hoped it would. However, after tasting the Port Charlotte 10 year old (46% version), my opinion of the 'label' began to change. Clearly the NAS bottling's are not the best of the range, so I decided to dig into my own collection and pull out something special, to settle the matter once and for all. 
The Town of Port Charlotte, Islay, Scotland.

I have covered the basic history of the 'Port Charlotte' label here previously, so for this review I will focus on the 'PC_' cask strength bottling's, before reviewing what is still the only bottle of the 'PC_' range I have ever seen in the flesh, so to speak, the (spoiler alert!) wonderful PC7. I came across it by chance in a local bottle shop, a couple of years ago, having read about it in Jim Murray's 'Whisky Bible', piquing my curiosity. I spotted another (last) bottle of it in the same store a couple of weeks ago, and decided to open, taste and review my bottle that night. I then (another spoiler alert!) went back early the next day and bought that last bottle. 

The Port Charlotte cask strength range started with PC5, which was 5 years old, and like the rest of the range, peated to 40ppm, a level similar to standard bottlings from Lagavulin / Laphroaig / Ardbeg etc. Then came PC6, PC7 and so on, and the distillery is currently up to PC11. These are all rather rare whiskies, or at least they're not easily found outside of internet auctions. As stated above, the PC7's I have in my collection are the only bottles of the 'PC_' range I personally have ever actually seen. There were typically around 5000 bottles of each release sold, which may sound like a lot, but really is not considering the size of the market around the world, and the number of hardcore collectors out there, who quickly snap up these limited release bottles. 

The packaging on these bottles is quite interesting, as the outer tin's feature photos of selected people, either distillery staff, suppliers or other Islay locals, as Bruichladdich feel very strongly that 'whisky should be about people'. The bottling's also have Gaelic names, with the exception of PC5. The PC7 is named 'Sin An Doigh Ileach', which translates to 'It's the Islay way', referring to the relaxed attitudes of Bruichladdich's suppliers and contractors. Let's try some!

Port Charlotte 'PC7' (Bruichladdich), 61% cask strength, Islay, Scotland.
7 years old, mix of bourbon and sherry casks, 40ppm, non-chill filtered, no added colouring. 

(tasted neat and with a drop of water)
Colour: Gorgeous deep copper. Seductive!

Nose: Smokey, medicinal peat, salty and smoky, fruity sweetness, a little grassy / herbal. A bit of alcohol, but not bad for 61%! 

Texture: Clean & light, warming.

Taste: Pow! Fantastic. Big peat and smoke, slightly salty and a little medicinal (unusual for bruichladdich / port charlotte), balanced by dark caramel / molasses sweetness, and stone fruit. Water brings out extra fruit and smoke, and a little mild honey and malt. Very well balanced and beguiling.

Finish: Long and smoky, fading into malty, fruity sweetness, fading again into lovely warm, malty peat, which goes on for days...

Score: 4 out of 5. 

Notes: Excellent quality, really enjoyable and surprisingly easy drinking, even neat. Identifiable as port charlotte peat, but turned up to maximum. This bottle actually had sediment in the bottom when first opened, and you can't get less chill-filtered than that, I love it! Between this and the 10 year old I reviewed recently, my opinion of the port charlotte 'label' has changed for the better. I'm going to have to try and find some other versions of the 'PC_' cask strength range. If you do come across any of these, in a bar or at an auction, have a taste, despite the inevitable high price. It'll be worth it!