Port Charlotte Scottish Barley

A Tasty Dram Whisky Blog tasting notes

Does the Port Charlotte brand still need an introduction? It's not an actual distillery - although there once were plans to build another Port Charlotte distillery - but a brand produced at Bruichladdich Distillery. It stands between the unpeated Bruichladdich and the ultra-peated Octomore brand. The malted barley is peated to 40ppm (10ppm being lightly peated, 40ppm heavily peated. Whisky for everyone wrote a comprehensive piece on the subject of phenols).  Port Charlotte Scottish Barley is the successor of the The Peat Project and An Turas Mor and bottled at 50% ABV.

Bruichladdich took its transparency promise a stage further earlier this week. You can now unveil the complete recipe of your own bottle of Port Charlotte on their website. All you need is the batch number that is printed on the bottom at back. It's the same "backdoor" they used for the Classic Laddie to reveal the age of all the casks (which is not permitted by European law and the SWA).

Identity Card

  • Port Charlotte Scottish Barley batch 15/052 and 15/221
  • Bruichladdich Distillery, Bruichladdich (Islay)
  • multi-vintage NAS single malt
  • 50% ABV
  • Price: around £45 / €50

Tasting Notes Port Charlotte Scottish Barley

Colour: A golden hue. Batches can vary slightly in colour. Swirling leaves thick fast legs.

Nose: Chalky at first. Sweet smoke and salty sea air. Agave or mezcal mixed with pimentón or smoked paprika powder. A touch of smoky port or Banyuls wine if such a drink exist. Lots of liquorice and caramel. Creamy malt and vanilla. Oatmeal porridge with golden syrup. Hay. Toffee nut syrup from a hipster coffee bar. Sweet cherries, roasted almonds and marzipan. Cola cubes.
With water the sweetness is subdued a bit. Fruit Tella candy with lemon and strawberry flavour. Sweet apples and honey.

Taste: Creamy malt. Honey and liquorice. Smoke versus pepper and salt. Sweet marzipan. Peppery with notes of wood and honey.
With water: Vanilla, banana, melon and kiwi. Meringue. Soft and creamy. A whiff of smoke mingles through the palate.

Finish: A long and sweet aftertaste. Honeymelon. Marshmallow caramelizing on a bonfire. It's  bit rough around the edges but very moreish.

I still haven't encountered a Port Charlotte that disappointed. Port Charlotte Scottish Barley should be a staple in every cabinet (provided you like your whiskies peated). Young, bold but multi-layered and richly flavoured.The recipe is built around first fill bourbon casks, virgin oak casks and a few sherry and red wine casks. But if you take a look at the second batch, you notice there could also be way more funky refill wine casks in the vatting. Think Côtes du Rhône, Madeira, Banyuls, white Jurançon,...

Recipe 15/021

Recipe 15/221

Both bottlings still have Jim McEwan's signatory although I suspect that it's his padawan Adam Hannett who constructed the vattings Jim just gave him the approving nod.

Bonus: If you're not afraid of an experiment, add a drop of Manzanilla sherry to a glass of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. It enhances the sweet and salty flavours.

Image source: The Whisky Exchange

Sample isclosure: The 70 cl bottle of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley was bought at a local supermarket, the 20 cl bottle was part of a Twitter tasting organised by Oona and Bruichladdich for Belgian bloggers.