What was the occasion: /u/devoz poured me a sample. And if that isn’t an occasion to you, you may want to see if you’re surrounded by wood and dirt, cause you’re dead.
Also it’s been awhile since I’ve had a Bruichladdich, and there may be a whisky tasting coming up, so it’s best to see how my lackadaisical drinking habits have impacted my tolerance (spoiler: they didn’t).
What whisky did we review? Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 9 2012 SC: 01 a special release from Port Charlotte in the “two-letters and a number” line of whiskies that they probably have a name for… wait a second… the cask exploration series…. Yeah, I prefer 2 letters and a number, sounds almost like a cool Beck song.
Anyway, this is a 9-year-old Port Charlotte that’s been aged in ex-Bourbon and Ex-sherry, vatted together, and then finished in ex-Sauternes casks (French dessert wine). A bunch of casks? Heck, I’m in!
What’s the distillery? Bruichladdich is kinda a staple now, whether you want it to be or not. When the distillery was reopened and over the decades reimagined, we went from having tons of releases of varying levels, unpeated whiskies, eventual higher peated whiskeys, and even the highest PPM whiskies. Also gin, funny enough, and now I’m waiting for the chance to buy a Lochindaal.
What’s my bias? The problem with sticking with a distillery like Bruichladdich and trying old whiskies, new whiskies, re-casked whiskies, experimental whiskies, and the artistry of Jim McEwan is when things change, for the better or worse, you’re a judgemental prick.
Now I don’t call myself a prick because it’s funny or it’s about dicks. I say it because recently I’ve not loved Bruichladdich as much as I used to. Black Arts used to be a must have sample or bottle to hunt down. We won’t know if the distillery is in the process of getting better, thus necessitating some changes and some patience, or getting worse. Or even I’m a different person.
That’s all to say I have a bias, I’m not the Bruichladdich lover that I was once (broke my leg, don’t have the leverage anymore), and I’m suspicious of this whisky.
But heck, it’s peated, I like Port Charlotte, and while I don’t love what Sauternes casks do to whisky, I’m here for it. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Price: £ 95
Bottled: The 12th and 13th of July, 2022… Really guys? We have to allow for split bottlings now? I’m all for all the information possible, but we’ve hit peak pedantic-ness. Leave that to us Accountants.
Cask type Ex-Bourbon and Ex-Sherry Butts, then finished in Sauternes casks.
Colour: 10YR 8/8
Nose: Rubber, grape, manure/grass/moss, salted nuts
Typical peat notes of rubber and some farmy/vegetal notes, so nothing too wild there. You have to like that note, meaning you either spent a bit of time working outside or are rich and pretended to in order to bolster your political career.
The wine cask is noticeable here, which is impressive with a peated malt. Nutty and some grape (red) notes that I’m picking up. I don’t mind them, but it’s all a bit cattywampus at times. It’s not screaming Port Charlotte. Also you get more “generic Islay” as time goes on.
Taste: Cigarette, toffee, salt, sugar cookies, lemon
Yikes, my issues with tobacco are already popping up. New bias just dropped! Ha! No, I’ve been bitching about it for years: I am not a fan of tobacco unless it’s wacky. This has some ash notes though, which I don’t mind, and the wine has added some lemon, and there’s a toffee… wait a second…
Wait just a second…
Did they accidentally make Caol Ila? I quickly poured one of the many open Caol Ilas in my place, tried it, and then back to this, then back to it, then woke up with my underwear around my head (joking).
Yeah, this tastes like Caol Ila, albeit with a bit more sweet notes and a bit more salt. How odd.
That all said, the notes really get lost in the peat. You mostly get the ash notes from it as time goes on, which is an improvement. For me.
This isn’t to say I’ve never had lemon in a Port Charlotte: I have, it’s part of their DNA too. It’s just the mixture of the lemon and the ash that made me think of it. I’m used to a cleaner smoke or a cinnamon or some manure from Port Charlotte. Or even chocolate and mint.
Finish: Anise, faint cherry, butter, cinnamon, funk, brine
The finish is the closest feeling I get to a Port Charlotte on the entire whisky. If the taste is Caol Ila, and the nose is generic Islay. The finish has more cinnamon, brine, and funk on it.
Conclusion: Someone from Bruichladdich wanted to make a Caol Ila, and kinda got there but they should have tried to make a good Port Charlotte instead. Not as good as other PC “two-letters and a number” releases, as the subtle notes of the casks get lost in the peat. Needed more time and tweaking.
That’s all to say it’s not as nice as other Port Charlotte whiskies, but is it a good whisky? Yes, easily, if you like peat it’s good. It’s just not as great as other Cask Exploration whiskies. The nose felt somewhat generic Islay. And that’s okay, we have to try new things.
Now do something better is all this old grognard is asking.
Scotch review #1634, Islay review #432, Whisky Network review #2364