Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Bruichladdich. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
The Bruichladdich Distillery produces three different labels. There’s the eponymous Bruichladdich, which is entirely unpeated. There’s Octomore, which is extravagantly peated (and unconventional in other ways). And there’s Port Charlotte, which offers what’s probably closest to the canonical Islay style: robustly smoky whiskies with a maritime tinge.
Port Charlotte whisky gets its name from the village of Port Charlotte, a white-walled and windswept sort of place just a couple of kilometers down the road from Bruichladdich. This release, Port Charlotte 10, is distilled from 100% Scottish barley peated to 40 ppm. Ppm stands for parts per million phenol, a common method for for gauging the smokiness of malted barley that isn’t always useful for consumers. The distillate ages at least 10 years on Islay in a mix of first- and second-fill American whiskey casks, and second-fill French wine casks. It’s bottled at 50% ABV and, like all of Bruichladdich’s whiskies, without coloring or chill filtration.
Bruichladdich is proud of its commitment to the island community as an employer and neighbor. While it is the second-smallest distillery on Islay, Bruichladdich claims to be its largest private employer, with over 80 islanders on payroll. Just 3,200 people live on Islay, which means about 2.5% of the population works at Bruichladdich. A focus on island-grown barley and barley provenance, on-island warehouses, and environmental sustainability remains an unconventionally central component of Bruichladdich’s operations.
Tasting Notes: Port Charlotte 10-Year-Old
Vital Stats: 10 years old. 100% malted barley. Matured in ex-bourbon and ex-wine casks. 50% ABV. Bottled without chill filtration or coloring. Priced around $60. Islay, Scotland.
Appearance: Very pale gold
Nose: Balanced and harmonious, with bright tangerine, cereal grains, and a kind of madeira-like nuttiness. A combination of almond, allspice, and lime is vaguely reminiscent of tiki drinks. Atop it all floats a somewhat neutral smoke that reads more like a wood fire than the antiseptic, industrial character of some other Islay malts.
Palate: Dry, dense, and woodsy, with plenty of deep, nutty caramelized flavors. I get very dark caramel, and chocolate as well as a smoldering, insence-y kind of smoke as well as a savory meatiness. A splash of water releases a plume of warm campfire smoke, burnt barley sugar, salted lemons, peppercorns, and a bitter herbal tone like chamomile or yarrow.
Port Charlotte 10 is a lovely whisky–and, like many of Bruichladdich’s core whiskies, a startlingly good value. It’s dense, compact, and focused, with a distinctive charred sort of smokiness. I found it rather closed neat, but delicious with a bit of water.
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Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...