A NAS Port Charlotte, multivintage and intended to show how Bruichladdich might have tasted a hundred years ago. Thanks to Johnnie Stumbler for the sample!
Body - Ashen chocolate, chocolate first. The ash is quite bitter though.
Finish - which translates into the finish, with quite a robust development, but rightly so for a whisky of this style. I’m impressed.
What's not good about it: Quite bold, a little bitter, I think it works though.
What’s good about it: The nose is bright and structured but it hangs together. The palate doesn’t disappoint either, with loads of sweet toffee chocolate and that ashen bitterness coming together very nicely. At this price, Big Peat should be scared.
A reasonably priced NAS release from Port Charlotte.
Nose - sweet, gentle and smooth. Lovely, bright boiled sweets (barley sugar), toffee against a classical, delicate, mature and well integrated peat backdrop. Some apricot, light furniture polish and toasted wholemeal bread. The balance is just so, very impressive.
Body - Surprising sour cereal arrival, Japanese plum wine and umeboshi, wet paper and quite bright and light.
Finish - Short, toasted, a little more of that sour edge, with sweetness returning at the end. Quite clean and refreshing. A peated palate cleanser.
What’s not good about it: Sour plums isn’t my favourite but it’s pulled off nicely here.
What’s good about it: Fabulous nose, great balance, and fantastic value
Nose - Light, perfumed, cereally peated, sweet toffee and wagon wheels (i.e. biscuit, marshmallow and bad chocolate). There’s a meaty, musky back note, and quite a lot of youth, although it hangs together ok.
Body - Initially sweet chocolate and toffee, then fiery and ashen, but with a lovely, mellow, sweet and oily centre to it. Bruichladdich’s spirit is good eh?
Finish - Quite long, good balance of fire, ash and toffee. Seriously moreish.
What’s not good about it: Nose is initially thin but once you have the toffeed ash in the back of your throat it makes sense.
What’s good about it: Wonderful balance during the delivery, and that brings the nose along with it. Extremely drinkable.
SMWS 127.17, Port Charlotte, 18th Century anaesthetic, 9 years old, 66.3% A⊕+
Nose - Bright, intense, herbal (fennel), meaty, wet burnt wood, fire, peanuts and sawdust. There’s a new road/tarmac thing going on behind this, and the medical edge is modern hospital/industrial rather than 18th century for me. Enormous, of course, with intense sweetness balancing it’s core values, loads of complexity and interest and lots of burning, medicinal components but brought together by rounded, sweet elements. It’s at it’s fighting weight.
Body - Smooth and faultless, sweeps from smooth and sweet pear and toffee, up to cauterising peat and coal.
Finish - Long ashes and toffee, burnt chocolate and lots of lingering, almost cloying sweetness. I can’t see how Octomore is more intense than this.
What’s not good about it: Struggling to fault this.
What’s good about it: Intensity, integration, balance and consistency. Extremely good.
Thanks to Nick for the sample!
SMWS 127.39, Port Charlotte, Intensely tasty, 11 years old, 66.7% A⊕
Refill ex-sherry butt, June 21 2002, 579 bottles
Nose - Intense, waxed, sweet peat. Charred ham, bandages, and bright, ashen, toasted wood. Overripe mango, floor polish and TCP. Quite a feat to be so dark and bright at the same time, and just the most lovely integration of very serious, big flavours. This is why we love Bruichladdich and love SMWS; intensity, balance, a broad spectrum, expertise.
Body - Intense caraway and chilli. Flat palated, numbing but exciting, with a dark undercurrent of sweetness and anaesthesia. Intensely tasty but cauterising.
Finish - Long, sweet, more caraway, toasted cereal and in the end, long, intense, bitter peat. Very good.
What's not good about it: Long, intense bitterness is a bit of an acquired taste and something you’ll want to be stepping up to if you own a bottle of this.
What’s good about it: But it’s balanced throughout, with meaty, tropical, sweet notes and loads of interest and intensity. I think it’s ace.
SMWS 127.33, Port Charlotte, Mouth-numbing moutaineering dram, 64.5% A⊕+
Nose - More sweet wax, less peat, much more fruit. Redcurrants, red skinned peanuts, fried batter, toasted oak, well worn leather and old, wet, previously burned apple wood. Cigarette tobacco and a touch of petrol. Sweet, subtle but distinctive. Fascinating.
Body - Incredibly spicy, in waves with dusty bookcase and BBQ charcoal. Fireball jawbreakers (industrial cinnamon). Delightfully sweet, rolling into ashen bitterness. Fabulous poise - very bold. The nose suddenly moves from a jumble of spice, leathery, toasty artefacts to making perfect sense. Wow.
Finish - Long, Octomore-like and numbing, balanced bitterness and serious wood. Overall the peat is both hidden behind other aspects (bitterness, wood, sweetness, leather, tobacco) and simultaneously absolutely massive. What a feat! And yes, my mouth is completely numb.
What's not good about it: Intensely challenging, in the same way that Octomore can be. That’s not a problem in isolation but may make you reconsider pouring a dram or sharing it with a friend.
What’s good about it: Incredible intensity and balance. Expertly handled juxtaposition of sweet, peat, tannin, bitterness and fruit. Plays with the full church organ, all stops out.
Thanks Matt Veira for the sample!
SMWS 127.37, Port Charlotte, 9 years old, Dinosaurs Dancing to Stravinsky, 66.5% A⊕+
Nose - Beautiful sweet, sherry peat nose. Lots of wax, red cherry, dirty musk, apple, miso paste, wet, well seasoned oak, and beautiful coastal, salty airs. Incredibly balanced and fresh. The nose of a very expensive whisky, but most of all, the nose of an SMWS whisky.
Body - Dark, endless peat, red chilli and spicy wood, bitter pear and honey coated popcorn.
Finish - Burning wood, ash. Long, numbing driftwood and seaweed. Again, great poise and control. Complex and intense.
What's not good about it: Again, a challenge.
What’s good about it: More of the same but different. Fabulous, intense, balanced, complex and bold.
Thanks to Tom for the sample!
Nose - Sweet, light, bright and sherried, with a background of peat, and a dark, Oloroso and caramel undertone. Unusually (and in a departure from the sherried Ledaig feel of it otherwise), there are bright deodorant tones in here, caramac and pear. It’s beautiful.
Body - Candied and sweet, fiery and wooded, with toasted oak, ash and ripe phenols. Deep toffee apple and pear and intensely sweet against the peat, and totally balanced. Wow.
Finish - Belts of sherry interlinked with drying tannins, and numbing peat. More ash - long, long ashen finish, intense and exciting. Again!
What's not good about it: Sherry belts seem somewhat out of kilter at first but on closer investigation it’s right and proper. Same with the perfume.
What’s good about it: Intensity, excellently played sherry casking, extraordinarily moreish.
Port Charlotte 12 year old - Bruichladdich Valinch 03 (Tina Mackinnon), Sauternes finish, A+
Only available in the distillery shop, fill your own. It says “Premium French Oak” finished but I believe this is Bruichladdich speak for Chateau d’Yquem cask finished.
Nose - Darkly musky and heavily sherried, with a sexy, truffled backing and plenty of moss, forest floor and sun baked groyne. The Sauternes sweetness and lushness comes through if you’re looking for it. There’s a hint of vegetal cabbage too unfortunately but it’s actually quite appealing in this context, weirdly. It’s a sweet, challenging, dirty, fecund nose. With water, the toffee Sauternes and peat comes to the fore, there’s some custard creams in there, and that sulphur becomes more drying maturity and it retains intensity, but becomes more obviously “just sherried”.
Body - Sauternes blast, sweet peat and fiery boiled sweets. With water more toffee and more cabbage, with some struck match into the mix. Definitely better without water on the palate, although the nose is smoother (if a little less spectacular) with water.
Finish - Long, very sweet, numbing and vegetal. Dying notes are sulphurous, with the cabbage haunting the end. However, it hangs together, with sandalwood maturity and toffee pulling everything back together. With water, the sulphur begins to dominate unfortunately.
What’s not good about it: Clearly, a sulphurous sherry cask is evident here. I absolutely love sulphur notes when they integrate properly with the whisky and balance out other areas of intensity, but cabbage and match is a fault, and it’s a fault here.
What’s good about it: But the nose is very good, and I am quite sensitive to sulphur. Actually the nose is spectacular - darkly sherried PC, Sauternes and 12 years old? Another thing that’s good about this is that it means there are some interestingly ACEd PCs coming down the line. Sadly the fault in this whisky is preventing it being a total blockbuster, but peer behind the sulphur to find the deep, sweet, peated sherry. It’s worth it.
Port Charlotte PC11, Eòrna Na h-Alba, 59.8% A⊕
Travel Retail only.
Nose - Ripe raisins, muscovado sugar and butter, cardboard and deep, dark peat. Deep sherry but only the merest of hints of sulphur in here. Elegant, restrained and quietly intense. With water the peat sherry steps back to reveal some forest floor and mushrooms
Body - A smooth arrival of intense peated sherry, retronasal bandages and TCP, medicinal PX tones, and perfumed, waxy components. Mind bendingly sweet, more so even with water, with Kia ora fruit squash coming through and cigar tobacco and burnt cedar planks becoming prominent.
Finish - Long, numbing peat and sherry weaved throughout, with supporting wood elements. Doesn’t put a step wrong the whole way, good balance and integration.
What’s not good about it: While the intensity of the balancing elements holds up while it’s in your mouth and at your nose, the lasting impression is more cloyingly sweet.
What’s good about it: Excellent manipulation of intense flavours in harmony throughout.