Distillery/Brand: Port Charlotte | Region: Islay | ABV: 59.5% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89
I’m a huge fan of the Port Charlotte series from Bruichladdich. It is the brainchild of the legendary Master Distiller Jim Mcewan and is an experiment in cask exploration.
Port Charlotte sits in between the mildly or non-peated standard range and the highly peated Octomores. The PC spirit was laid soon after the distillery was re-opened thanks to the foresight of independent bottlers Murray McDavid. Jim Mcewan, who had worked at Bowmore since he was 15, was hired as Master Distiller and Production Director.
Under his guidance the PC series was born in 2001. The aim was to release a cask strength whisky every year from the time it reached five years of age. And so PC5 was the first in the series.
Now up to 11 the PC range has accumulated quite a following and for good reason too. No chill filtration, artificial coloring and served at cask strength this is a throwback to the days when there was no wifi and whiskies were hand made.
The PC 11 is titled Eòrna Na h-Alba which is Gaelic for Scottish Barley. Yes, you guessed it, all barley used in the making is Scottish. The spirit has been matured in Oloroso sherry butts and walks a lovely line between sherry sweetness and Islay flavors.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 59.5%
Nose: Quite salty. Lots of coastal sea air. Lemon. Peat. Hint of smoke. A little sour. Wet wood. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Coconut. Caramel. Takes time for the nose to adjust. The fumes are super strong. A couple of drops of water opens it up quite nicely. What’s not to like?
Palate: Smoke. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Peat. White pepper. Black peppers. Fish oil. Classic Islay flavors working well with the sweetness of the Oloroso. Adding a couple of drops makes it more palatable and creamier. Coffee comes out stronger as does the oak.
Finish: Cold cuts. White pepper. Oak. Chocolate.
This is not a beginners whisky by any standards due to the high strength and fairly strong peat levels. Takes very well to water, though. Can’t wait for the PC 12!
Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90
I’ve just got back from a very interesting Japanese whisky tasting event. Some good classic Japanese whiskies (Nikka from the Barrel, Hakushu 12, Yamazaki 18, to name a few) coupled with some delicious food made for an extremely satisfying evening.
But I decided to leave early and come back home to the Kilchoman Machir Bay as my last expression of the evening.
Kilchoman and I have a history. Three years ago I tasted a couple of young releases in the presence of Anthony Wills (founder of said distillery) and it was all I could do to prevent my self from spitting the liquid back out in the glass.
This was followed by a three year program on Kilchoman abstinence which was eventually broken by the Kilchoman 2013 Small Batch Release finished in Oloroso sherry casks.
I was floored. What an absolutely amazing whisky.
Anthony Wills here is another apology from me for writing you off.
This got me interested in other, newer, Kilchoman releases and when I heard good things about the Machir Bay I just had to get my self one of their dumpy bottles.
Machir Bay 2014 is a vatting of 5 and 6 year old ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts and is bottled at 46% ABV
Nose: Very sweet peat. Sugar cane. White wine. Chardonay. Very tart. Crisp. Fresh white oak. Fennel. Lime. Raspberry. Cumin. Cedar plank. Vanilla. Let it breathe and white dough comes wafting through. Finally pineapples. White grapes. A very fresh and lovely nose.
Palate: Very smooth. Extremely smooth to drink. Coffee. Apricots. Pears. Peat. White grape. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Cumin seeds. Very palatable.
Finish: Smooth. Peat. Mint. Oily. Cumin. White melon lozenge.
This is another extremely accomplished spirit from Kilchoman. Wonderfully smooth and completely thought through.
Distillery/Brand: SMWS | Region: Islay | ABV: 64.2% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 94
I was at an Ardbeg tasting recently and after sampling the Auriverdes (which left a lot to be desired) we were told there was a surprise waiting for us right at the end.
The surprise happened to be an absolutely wonderful bottling of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This one was bottle 33.125 aptly named the Salted Caramel Lollipop. This single cask Ardbeg was seven years old and served up at a delicious 64.2%.
Our host for the evening, an ex-SMWS chap, claimed that the spirit inside was actually a seven year old Ardbeg Alligator which, if true, completely blows my mind!
We’ve been having debates on how hard it is for distilleries to bring out flavors in younger whiskies given the state of high demand and here you have a fledgling powerhouse that delivers a slap in the face of all these claims.
If this really is the Alligator then I’m definitely in love with the younger sister.
Nose: The smoke is upfront and unapologetic. Salty barbecue sausages with a fresh fennel and cucumber salad on the side. For dessert there is a toffee pudding served with a side of citrus orange and pineapple. Sublime.
Palate: Firing on all cylinders! Sweet apricots soaked in sugarcane juice with a garnish of fresh mint. But it’s the spices that are king. They come at you with a thousand prickles of pleasure. You want to savor it for a long time but instinct forces you to swallow.
Finish: Gorgeously long and with all the spices in all their glory.
This is truly a sublime single cask whisky and forces me to ask this question. Is getting young spirit to taste awesome so hard?
This particular expression was third in line at a Wemyss tasting I attended recently. An interesting independent bottler which goes after a particular flavor profile rather than the other way around. And made all the more interesting thanks to the great Charles Maclean at it’s nosing helm.
Nose: The peaty nose has a lot of red apple sweetness sitting on a bed of oaky maple syrup. A quick breath and there is nutmeg and clove in the spice department. Interesting. Pleasant.
Palate: Sweet on the palate too, with it’s clove infused dark chocolate and purple fruits.
Finish: Nice, long cinnamon finish.
Magnificent? No. Pleasantly forgettable? Sure.
How can one distillery go through, what is fundamentally, the same process and produce expressions that are miles ahead of everyone else?
The standard Ardbeg 10 is anything but. Like a young savant it hides the most complex of personalities yet remains buoyantly youthful. As the tangy smoke rises from delicately grilled lemon zest roasting on the grill the chef brushes the main course of sausages with his own brand of special butter glaze. The sweetened smoky peat, mixed with a touch of tincture, remind you where this savant was born.
The palate is like eating a soft pudding under a haze of powdery volcanic ash. I never thought words like tar, soot and tobacco could be used to describe something so utterly scrumptious but then I’ve been proven wrong many a time. A juicy, brightly colored orange kicks in at the last instant re-affirming the massive complexities that lie in this delivery.
Smoked bitter gourd, a touch of medicine, tiny oak shavings and a toss of minty leaves finishes up one of the nicest and longest deliveries that have ever had the pleasure of cascading down my fortunate gullet.