Today’s review is of the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte, The Peat Project, a multi-vintage NAS release peated to approximately 40 ppm and matured in American Oak. A 2012 release, this is bottled at an abv of 46%, is unchillfiltered and has no e150a caramel coloring added.
According to the Bruichladdich storyline, this whisky was intended to recreate the historical peated whisky profile of the original Lochindaal Distillery, which was located in Port Charlotte, just south of the Bruichladdich distillery. Sadly, Lochindaal ceased production in 1929, and as there are no recipes or existing bottles to use to develop the actual taste, this is admittedly a somewhat romantic recreation. (Click here for a more detailed history of Lochindaal distillery).
Bruichladdich now produces a number of “heavily peated” whiskies under the Port Charlotte “line.” The Peat Project follows the An Turas Mor, preceded the Port Charlotte 10 Year Old, and joins the Heavily Peated (previously reviewed here) as well as the Scottish Barley and Islay Barley releases, which are intended to offer a glimpse into the concept of “terroir” that Bruichladdich believes contributes to the authenticity and quality of their whiskies. And finally, as if that wasn’t enough, and just to further add to the confusion, Bruichladdich also produces the Port Charlotte PC range, which are single cask, cask strength bottlings that were distilled in the same year and have been released annually, with the PC12 coming out in 2015.
I will admit straight away ….. I am an avowed Bruichladdich fan. Of all the distilleries in Scotland, I have personally bought more bottles from Bruichladdich than from anywhere else. In part that is because of the vast, seemingly endless supply of unique releases that they produced during the early days under Mark Reynier and James McEwan as the distillery restarted and got its feet under it; the Cuvees, numerous wine-cask finishes, the ultra-peated Octomores, the creamy, fruity Laddie Classic, The Laddie 10, Black Art….and, of course, the annual releases of the Port Charlotte PC series of heavily peated, cask-strength whiskies. The Bruichladdich 16-year old remains one of my favorite “daily drams.”
My love of Bruichladdich goes back to my very start in my exploration of scotch. My first introduction to peated whisky, not to mention my first taste of scotch, was the 12-year old Caol Ila. It was great, and I fell hard! Following that experience I did buy a couple of non-peated scotch whiskies, but my first actual purchase of a peated whisky was the Port Charlotte PC7. Now, I admit that I bought that bottle on a whim and there is a possibility that if I’d known what was in store, I might not have done that quite so early in my whisky exploration! The PC7 was this cask-strength bottle of big, bold, weird, peaty, fruity, floral, buttery whisky that also has this unique note(s), that I describe as “farmy.” This farmy note is one that I always associate with the Port Charlotte whiskies. The “farmy” note is an odd, somewhat “off” note of damp vegetation, wet animals, farmyard mud (with all that entails) and maybe even as milk just a few days too old that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but despite this weird profile, I just found something about it that I liked. The PC7 was so unique, so different, and so engaging! I liked it so much that I added another couple bottles of that release. Then I bought the PC6, the PC8, the PC9, and the PC10. In fact, I bought two of each of these releases to be able to drink one now and also to have one for years later when these are no longer available. Sadly, because Bruichladdich made the decision to only offer the PC11 and PC12 via travel retail, I’ve only managed one bottle of each (so far)….but I remain hopeful that I can double up on those, too!
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte, The Peat Project
So, as I said, I am a Bruichladdich fan, which means that I come into this review with a slight bias, and with hopes that the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte, The Peat Project lives up to the high standards of its lineage!
Color: Pale yellow-gold.
Nose: A bold start of full on peat, a peat made up of damp leaves, damp hay and tree bark, rubber boots, camphor, and a somewhat softer hint of the Laddie “farmy” notes. With time a note of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, maybe a hint of canned peaches and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Old books. There are notes of oak that seems a bit more pronounced than it ought to be and that causes the nose to become somewhat dry. (Water) Becomes grassier, with the lemon notes fading. The peat also seems more muted. There is still a light touch of cinnamon or ginger that adds a snap to the nose.
Taste: a sharply citric arrival, lemon juice and lemon zest, then the peat kicks in – earthy, smoky, becoming ashy. Maybe a soft hint of honey adding a layer of sweetness. (Water) Very similar with water, perhaps the lemon is slightly softer, but still the initial flavor. As with the nose, water seems to mute the peatiness on the palate, as well.
Finish: lemon, soot, earthy peat, just a hint of fruitiness, and nicely long. After adding water, this remains a very similar finish with the lemon, soot, cinnamon and soft fruits, quite long, but now somewhat muted.
Overall: Okay, so this one shows all the expected features of the Port Charlotte profile, but it somehow just misses a bit compared to, say the Heavily Peated or the 10-year old. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what is missing here, but I just find it “lacking.” Perhaps it is a result of the “lower” 46% abv of the standard Port Charlotte bottlings, or perhaps this one has too much younger whisky in the mix, but, for me, the flavors, while nice, are missing some of the depth and liveliness of flavors that I’ve come to enjoy in my PC whiskies. And if you do try this whisky, be cautious when adding water.
Type: Single Malt
Maturation: American Oak
Price: $50 USD, at original price
Availability: Limited, some searching required
Sample Source: Mike D
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.