...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Port Charlotte Taste Off -- PC5, PC6, PC7

(Port Charlotte cluster homepage)

Back to the Port Charlotte cluster!

Port Charlotte kicked off their fierce cask-strength PC series in 2006 with a five-year-old full-powered whisky distilled in the malt's rookie year of 2001, and ended it with the 12-year-old PC12 in 2014. Some of the PCs were all bourbon cask, while others had a few fortified wine casks tossed in. 

My first Port Charlottes were a few SMWS releases that were nearly unpalatable at the 65-66%abv range. The "funny" SMWS names for those creatures should have been Pain Shartlotte, Who Needs an Esophagus Anyway, and I Can't Feel My Legs Keyser.

Thankfully PC7 and I met up just a few months later on a frigid 70ºF Costa Mesa winter evening, and I've been a fan of that series ever since. So it is my great pleasure to hold today's Taste Off, while hydrating appropriately.

As mentioned above, Port Charlotte PC5 Evolution was the first PC, distilled in 2001 and bottled 2006. Aged entirely in former bourbon casks, PC5 had a limited outturn of 6,038 bottles. It weighs in at 63.5%abv, so I'm stupidly letting it bat leadoff. My sample is from a bottle split.

Port Charlotte PC6 Cuairt-Beatha ("Walk of Life") enjoyed six years of maturation in a mix of bourbon and Madeira casks. Bruichladdich gave it a much bigger release, turning out 18,000 bottles in 2007. PC6 tiptoes in at 61.6%abv. This sample was also from a bottle split.

Port Charlote PC7 Sin An Doigh Ileach ("Brothers in Arms"; Ha! Just kidding. "It's the Islay Way" is probably more accurate.) spent its seven years in bourbon and oloroso casks, and had a 24000 bottle release in 2008. This pour was saved from my own bottle that I reviewed more than five years ago.

LET'S GET CHAR-LIT!


Port Charlotte 5 year old PC5 Evolution, 63.5%abv

While there is indeed plenty of heat in the nose, there's also a good mix of seaweed and smoke stack. Then a combo of saline, bacon, walnuts and apples. Those walnuts slowly develop into roasted almonds. Metal notes sneak in over time, as does some more classic peat smoke. Reducing the whisky to 50%abv brings on more manure, hay and earth, but also some white fruits and honey. Some almond butter and moss drift through the background.

Regarding the palate, here are my first notes: "Startling in its violence" and "Ashes of the dead". I can offer more words, like "salt" and "burnt peat". "Stones and metal". It takes more than a half hour before the dried apricots, dried mango and tangy lemons show up. At 50%abv, the whisky reads smokier than Octomore, though it's not monolithic. It has some sweet citrus, raw walnuts, black pepper and plenty of salt.

It finishes with soil, dried fruits, dried grass, tangy lemons and loads of soot. Diluted to 50%abv, the whisky ends with pepper, salt, wood smoke and a touch of sweetness.

While certainly bracing, PC5 isn't debilitating like those aforementioned SMWS casks. This is the most naked of the PCs, showing itself to be a work in progress, though a very good one. PC5 came out more than a decade before the newest crop of distilleries started dropping their barely legal raw whiskies onto the market, so one can imagine the excitement and dreams about the future this stirred up in 2006. Though I'd love to drink this again someday, I think it's too brutal for more than 0.5-1.0 ounce at a time.

RATING - 85



Port Charlotte 6 year old PC6 Cuairt-Beatha, 61.6%abv

The nose begins with more ocean and more(!) smoke than the PC5, but then gains walnuts, pears, nectarines and honey. It gets a little fusty and farmy with time. Oh, and a note of cuddly warm dog fur. Diluted to 50%abv, the whisky becomes comfier, though plenty strong with vivid ocean notes and a hint of manure. Cardamom, cloves and white peaches roll beneath.

The palate is gorgeously bitter and tart, with grapefruits and limes and herbs, covered by mineral- and moss-laced smoke. After 30 minutes it evolves into good green grapes and honey in a cigar lounge. That great herbal bitterness continues when the whisky is reduced to 50%abv. Lots of lemons and limes. Hints of mint candy and pink peppercorns. Hulking kiln smoke.

It finishes with a layer of dark smoke on top, sea salt and tart citrus in the middle, and a balance of sweet and bitter on the bottom. At 50%abv, it finishes with dried herbs, kiln, limes and mint candy.

What difference between years five and six! I'm not sure if the casks came from a different part of the warehouse or the Madeira casks helped pull the elements together, but this is no longer just a work in progress, it's a complete whisky. I'm not sure there was a single whisky (whether six years or fourteen) in the Kilchoman cluster that could match the PC6.

RATING - 89



Port Charlotte 7 year old PC7 Sin An Doigh Ileach, 61.0%abv

You're going to get lists for this nose. First there's ocean water, pears, pecans and molasses. Twenty minutes later: beach smoke, golden syrup and chalk dust. Thirty minutes in: pineapples, oranges and a hint of eau de vie. Down at 50%abv, it leads with grilled fruit and roasted nuts. Seaweed and miso. Bits of brown sugar and anise.

The palate leads with tart berries, dried currants, cigarette smoke, salty savory miso broth, dried herbs, zippy chiles. It balances sweet, tart, bitter, smoke, savory and salt. All things shining. Everything stays locked in when the whisky is reduced to 50%abv. A little less sugar, a little more salt. A sturdy savoriness. Herbal smoke, lime juice and a little bit of basement.

Dark chocolate appears in the finish, along with salt, stones, chiles, roasted nuts and a hint of dried herbs. It gets savorier at 50%abv, and gains limes, chiles and mint leaves.

To me, this can stand up with the best Laphroaig 10yo CS and Lagavulin 12yo CS batches. The balance, complexity and delivery are remarkable. The oloroso casks do their duty well because they stay back, highlighting and framing the great bourbon cask elements. Though I dearly hope this wasn't peak Port Charlotte, I'm not sure how it can be topped.

RATING - 91



It was with this Taste Off in mind that I put together the Port Charlotte cluster, lining up whiskies I adore to see if perspective broadens my experience. Mark it a success! That was a lot of alcohol, but I’ve lived to tell another tale. If my body naively forgives me, I'll test it again with another PC lineup next week. Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Heaven Hill Bottled-In-Bond Taste Off: 6 year old vs 7 year old

My WT101 naïveté did not extend to Heaven Hill 6yo BIB. I think we all knew it was going to be discontinued, especially in its $10-$15 price point. Then Heaven Hill Distillery fulfilled all cynical expectations by going Full Coke Dealer by adding one year to the expression and tripling the price on its customers. Retailers were only happy to pile on further.

One could certainly argue the 6yo whiskey was underpriced, and I would have been comfortable paying $25-$30 for the same whiskey, but now the 7yo averages $68 at retail stores (per Winesearcher). Yes, you read that correctly. You may indeed find yourself in an American liquor store that charges more for a 7 year old Heaven Hill product than a 12 year old single malt scotch. This why I don't indulge in American whiskey much beyond good cocktail ingredients.

Heaven Hill 6 year old Bottled-in-Bond was excellent in cocktails, and pretty decent on its own. Just before that expression vaporized, I bought four bottles (for $11.99 each!) from its home state of Kentucky. Now I'm down to two. Today's sample comes from about the halfway point of the bottle I finished a few months ago.

Despite my gripes about everyone connected to the 7 year old expression, I really do want to try the stuff. So I am thankful to have participated in a bottle split.

Heaven Hill 6 year old BIB, 50%abv, from my bottle

The nose balances dried berries, oak spice and barrel char up front, with vanilla bean, leather and cherry candy in the background. Hints of tangerines and pine sap gradually emerge.

Though less complex than the nose, the palate has a good tart citrus note to go with the sweet cherries and black pepper. A spot of savory tea floats in the background.

It finishes with cherries, bananas, caramel and black pepper.

It brightens up when served on one big ice cube, turning into honey and oranges with a dash of salt.

A relic from another time, Heaven Hill 6 year old BIB was one of life's little joys. I wish I'd known about it years earlier so I wouldn't have had to wince down a parliament of declining $25 scotch blends in the search for a tasty deal. Though this is my third review of this bourbon, it's the first time I've really appreciated how well it worked on ice. (Yes this is really me.) So I'm going to give it a couple more points this time.

RATING - 84



Heaven Hill 7 year old BIB, 50%abv, from a bottle split

The nose begins with sherry-like dried fruits and chocolate. The wood is so much heavier here than in the 6yo, and comes close to overwhelming the rest of the elements. Hints of oranges, peach skin and armagnac boost it slightly.

Mostly woody, peppery and savory, the palate does allow in the occasional apricot and plum. Quite tannic, though.

Luckily those stone fruits stick around into the finish because the tannins and peppercorns are very aggressive.

It's dry and woody when served on one big ice cube, with occasional hints of bananas and black pepper.

Though it certainly has heft and age, the 7 year old does nothing for me. It smells good, as do a lot of oak juices, but the palate seems dimensionless next to the 6 year old. All that oak reads generic, as if this could be one of the many faceless bourbons on the market. Drinking the bourbon has changed my mind; I wouldn't spend $25-$30 on this, let alone the current asking price.

RATING - 76



Though I don't like the 7's price, I understand it from a financial perspective since the market bears it. But I do not understand why Heaven Hill changed the bourbon's style. Did they do it so drinkers wouldn't complain about paying quintuple the price for the same bourbon? Because, IMO, people are paying quintuple the price for a lesser bourbon, a bourbon that doesn't even surpass Heaven Hill's cheaper products. For instance, it's of a similar quality to Elijah Craig Small Batch, but at twice the price. I'm sure Heaven Hill is weeping into their platinum tissues over my post, but it didn't have to be this way.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Taste Off: 2011 bottling versus 2018 bottling

In 2012, Wild Turkey 101 Rye was great and it was $20. I remember one of Bacardi's distributors telling me that demand had exceeded supply, and that 101 Rye would soon disappear from shelves. In my 2012 naïveté I thought, "Huh, that sounds kinda concerning." The rye was gone that very month.

Three years later it returned with a 50%-100% price jump and a 33% larger bottle (750mL to 1000mL). It was another four years before I bought a bottle of the new stuff. And it took me another two years to do this comparison.

And only now am I appreciating how much more useful this review would have been SIX YEARS AGO. Nothing if not timely around here.

I could have taken a worse picture too,
but that would've just been showing off.

The sample of the old label 2011 bottling on the left was from the bottle I reviewed 105 moons ago. The sample on the right is from the 2018 bottling I bought and finished in 2019-2020. Both ryes performed very well in Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, here's a look at the two served neatly:

Wild Turkey 101 Rye, 50.5%abv, bottled 2011

In the nose, apples and pears stew slowly with cinnamon and cloves. Smaller notes of thyme, blossoms and creamsicles float in and out. Gentle barrel char mixes with cherry bubblegum.

Fresh cherries and cherry lollipops meet in the palate, followed by ginger beer, sweet red plums, cassis and applesauce. The char moves from the rear to the fore with time, though the fruits always remain.

The cherries, plums and ginger remain in the finish, with a pinch of pepper in the background.

Wow, this was great! I'd even keep it away from the cocktails and just sip it neatly. Between this, the earlier Rittenhouse BIBs and Willett's LDI single barrels, we were spoiled ten years ago. I should have bought more etc., etc., etc. Damn.

RATING - 88



Wild Turkey 101 Rye, 50.5%abv, bottled 2018

The nose begins simpler. Plenty of cherries, some split lumber, more citrus and cardamom. More pepper, more ethyl. Mint, flowers and something beefy in the background.

The palate feels rougher, slightly hotter. I find more char and peppercorns, reminding me of the 101 Bourbon. Moderate notes of soil, salt and savory roll through the midground. Cherry lollies and apricots highlight the background.

Barrel char leads the finish, with cherries and salt appearing later.

Compared to the 2011, this one has more aggressive oak and youthful jagged edges. It's fine and sturdy on its own but works much better when giving Manhattans more heft. And if you dare to pour it over one large ice cube, you may find it does its job as a summer sipper.

RATING - 82



Though the 2011 wins outright with its fruits and gentler maturation, it's not like one can just choose between these two ryes in a store. The latter bottling is what's on the shelf, and the former is priced high on the secondary market. No, the current edition isn't $20, but at $34 for one liter, it's one of the better options in that price range in most states. (Though I'd give Old Forester Rye the edge.)

Friday, April 30, 2021

Port Charlotte Taste Off -- CC:01, MRC: 01, OCL:01

(Port Charlotte cluster homepage)

The Port Charlotte Cluster continues! Today, it's a taste-off between three members of the distillery's Cask Exploration Series.

8 year old 2007 CC:01 was originally a Travel Retail release, before it trickled out to European retailers. Today's bottle comes from Haneda Airport Duty Free, at the end of my 2017 trip. Yes indeed, this review pour will be from an actual bottle of mine, a bottle of which I have no pictures but this of the tin:


The "CC" part I believe stands for Cognac Cask, though the official description gets a bit precious about the casks as "[t]hey previously held one of the greatest Eau de Vie, from the western Cognac region." There seemed to have been one dozen bottlings of this whisky. My bottle was sealed up on the 5th of August 2016.

While CC:01 had its entire maturation in French oak casks, 7 year old 2010 MRC:01 had a few things going on. It married whisky from 1st fill American whiskey casks and 2nd fill French wine casks for one year "in the finest French oak from the Bordeaux left bank". At least some portion of those casks come from Mouton Rothschild, thus the MRC. Today's sample comes from a bottle split.

We go from 1 element (CC:01) to 3 elements (MRC:01) to 5 elements with 9 year old 2010 OLC:01. Here's how it was built:

30% had its initial maturation in 1st fill American whiskey casks
40% had its initial maturation in 2nd fill American whiskey casks
25% had its initial maturation in Vin Doux Naturel (sweeties from the South of France) casks
5% had its initial maturation in 2nd fill Syrah casks
Then it's all vatted and finished in 1st fill Oloroso hoggies for 18 months.

I can't say I'm particularly excited about this goulash, and probably wouldn't have gone in on a bottle split if I knew it was this Black FArt-ish.

How about a Taste Off?


Port Charlotte 8 year old 2007 CC:01, 57.8%abv

The nose is very yeasty and slightly rubbery. A curious mix of band-aids, eau-de-vie and sugary hard candy follows. Saline, carrot cake and cherry blossoms rest on top of old newspaper print in the background. Reducing it to 46%abv brings out that odd Bruichladdich note that PCs usually avoid (for me). Here it's baby spit-up, specifically rejected oatmeal and applesauce. Sooooo much oatmeal. Then there's peated newmake, saline and a hint of cruciferous veg.

The palate begins with nutmeg, cinnamon and raw walnuts. Plenty of mossy peat. Its brown sugar sweetness builds with time, as do the baking spices. An intense raw heat runs throughout. Once diluted to 46%abv, it reads like tangy gingery peated newmake. Just a hint of the yeast and oatmeal linger behind.

It finishes hot, salty and smoky. All sweetness has vanished. At 46%abv, it gets sweeter and tangier, while its smoke becomes peppery

It took years to get through this bottle since I was never terribly excited about its contents. It's one of the hotter whiskies I've tried recently, reading considerably north of 60%abv, and it feels like 3 or 4 years old on the palate. This was the first time I noticed the butyric element that MAO found prominently in the whisky. It's not terrible stuff, it's just very raw. I should have bought a sample rather than a whole bottle.

RATING - 82



Port Charlotte 7 year old 2010 MRC:01, 59.2%abv

The nose has its fruity side — melon, pear juice and fruit cocktail — and an Islay Barley-style peatiness. There's also the same saline note found in the CC:01. It gets sootier and ashier with time, and then picks up a berry-ful Petite Sirah note. Once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv, the nose changes course, getting beefier and a bit sulfurous. There's sneaker peat, tennis ball peat, dijon mustard and miso. Iodine-laced Luxardo cherries.

The palate leads with lots of red wine and big ashy salty peat. Lemon juice and gravel sit in the middle. Candied ginger and cherry syrup in the back. At 46%abv, the palate picks up more flowers and berries, as well as shisha smoke and extinguished matches.

Big wine and big peat in the finish as well. It's tangy and slightly acidic, getting ashier with time. With the whisky at 46%abv, the finish matches the palate.

Even though this very large whisky was produced by Remy Cointreau, it follows Murray McDavid's lead by illustrating subtraction via addition. All of the whisky's Big parts remain Big separately, and one wonders if this could have been improved had its final year (or more) been spent in refill American oak, letting all the parts marry, rather than bombarding it with more wine. There was a path to make this single malt great, instead it is just loud.

RATING - 83



Port Charlotte 9 year old 2020 OLC:01, 55.1%abv

Candy shop notes flow through the nose. Toasted marshmallow, toasted coconut, circus peanuts and a bag of gummy worms. Cut grass and orange zest, too. That saline note pops up again, linking these three whiskies in a minor way. It's also the least peaty of the three, with its gentle beachy smoke. Reducing the whisky to 46%abv gives the nose some focus. Consider, if you will, an iced cinnamon roll topped with toasted coconut, with some orange zest and saline in the distance.

Its palate is also the mildest of the three, lightly sweet and citric, with a mix of mossy and woody smoke. It gets sweeter with time as a mix of ginger and orange hard candy pushes to the front. At 46%abv, the palate is floral and sweet, with toasted marshmallows and orange candy. There's more pepper than peat present.

It finishes with mint candy and orange candy. Cayenne pepper and ash. At 46%abv, it's all pepper and citrus.

This is the least "Port Charlotte" of any Port Charlotte I've tried. In fact it seems more like a Doc Lumsden creation than a PC. It's very friendly, and much better organized than the MRC:01. Perhaps this is a Port Charlotte for people who don't like Port Charlotte? It's probably the best built of the three (and my favorite in the moment), and I would certainly drink it again. 

RATING - 85



That could have gone better or worse. None of these tops the Islay Barley releases nor the current 10 year old, but none were real failures. The CC:01 and MRC:01 were problematic, the former half-cooked, the latter wine-soaked. The OLC:01 was nearly neutered, but an easy, pretty drink. I can confidently state there will be no further "cask exploration" during the remainder of this cluster. There are many many better PCs to drink. I think.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Teeling 24 year old Vintage Reserve Irish Single Malt (bottled 2016)

Compared to the rest of whiskydom, I've never been too excited about Cooley distillery's output, nor do I find Bourdeaux's Sauternes to be a particularly thrilling match for whisky. But (SPOILER ALERT) this whiskey screwed all of that right up. I was informed that I had to try this, I tried it, and I am glad I did.


Distillery: Cooley
Bottler: Teeling
Series: Vintage Reserve
Country: Ireland
Style: Single Malt Whiskey
Age: at least 24 years (though no vintage for the Vintage Reserve?)
Bottling date: August 2016
Maturation: Bourbon casks and Sauternes casks
Outturn: 5,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(thank you to Secret Agent Man for sharing!)

NOTES

Mangoes and peaches and mangoes and peaches and mangoes and peaches on the nose. Cherry lollipops, grapefruit and yuzu fill in the midground. A balance of industry, farm, mint and cucumber hold the background.

Here comes the palate's list. Lychee, loquat, mango, roses and honey. Something sturdy, earthy and herbal keeps it from getting much too pretty. After 30ish minutes, the mango and flowers subside and are replaced by Cara Cara oranges.

Sweet mangoes meet tart yuzu and lime in the finish. That slight earthy notes gives it some balance, even when the Cara Caras roll in.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

You may note the paucity of verbiage in this review, compared to that of Monday's Springbank. I tried the two whiskies side-by-side, gradually getting lost in this Teeling, while becoming more critical of the Springbank. The Springbank was indeed good. This Teeling is awesome. The palate and finish are merely great, while the nose remains stunning for well over an hour in the glass.

There is a through line between this and TWE's 26yo Green Spot, the fruit, the flowers, the hint of something darker, the casks that I didn't think would work. Though both of these lovely Irish whiskies are out of my price range, I do appreciate their existence.

Availability - It's still around?!
Pricing - all over the place, from $400 to $1000
Rating - 91

Monday, April 26, 2021

Springbank 17 year old 2002 Madeira Cask Matured

I was going to call this week, W(h)ine Week! But I'll go a little commercial and call it Cask Exploration Week instead. There will be three Port Charlottes and two not-Port Charlottes.

To begin with, a Springbank. A semi-relevant Springbank at that. Bottled only six months ago, this Springer has a misleading name, "Madeira Cask Matured". One supposes they needed to call it something, and Cask Fuckery 2020 would be too all-encompassing of a title in this marketplace. It's a mix of of bourbon cask and rum cask Springbank that had a three-year secondary maturation in fresh Madeira hogsheads.

I've reviewed a few of these annual cask-y releases, like the Burgundy and Rum, finding them all falling short of the standard bottlings, but still pretty good. How about this one...?

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 17 years (November 2002 - October 2020)
Maturation: bourbon casks + rum casks for 14 years, fresh Madeira hogsheads for 3 years
Outturn: 9200 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 47.8%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

There's a swirl of fruity cask things going on at the start of the nose: tangerines, raspberry jam, anise and sugary rum. These elements team up to mute the peat. Hints of steel wool and dried thyme sneak out. Then there's a combination of wet concrete and bus fumes that triggers a sense memory of London, fourteen years ago. The anise note grows with time. The whisky is less fruity, more Campbeltown, once reduced to 43%abv. There's dirt, metal and engine grease. Just little bit of peach candy, apricots and molasses in the background.

The palate hits warmer than expected. It has some of the nose's fruit, but more industrial smoke. There's a little bit of butterscotch, cayenne and Hampden-style olives. It makes for very casual drinking, until it develops more ash and bitterness after 30 minutes. Reducing the whisky to 43%abv doesn't do it any favors. It's earthier but also bitterer, a woody bitterness that doesn't mix well with the lemon candy and fennel notes.

It finishes with sweet and tart oranges, cayenne pepper, copper and a touch of bitterness. Once reduced to 43%abv, the finish shows more tannins, while keeping the sweet citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I didn't realize I took so many notes on this one. It's an expressive whisky, but though it delivers a few unique notes, I can't say it tops any of the standard range, which is inexcusable considering its price. Perhaps Springbank has cursed itself with its excellent single malt. It can't top itself, especially by adding more casks. This isn't as grim of a situation as Ardbeg, since the annual Springbank limited releases have been consistently good. Again, this one continues the quality, but for the price of 3 or 4 10yos, or 2 or 3 12yo CSes, this should deliver more pyrotechnics.

Availability - Not sold out, yet
Pricing - $280-$400
Rating - 86

Friday, April 23, 2021

Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2008 versus Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2011

(Port Charlotte cluster homepage)

I've always preferred Port Charlotte's Islay Barley over their Scottish Barley whiskies. While the Scottish Barley release was in a standard rotation and is now extinct, the Islays had limited outturns, specific vintages and are still around, with the newest release, the 2012, appearing last year.

Islay Barley 2008, the version I know the best, had a number bottlings, from 2014 to 2016. Because the bottle lists no age, I'm not sure if that means this expression was released at multiple ages, or if it was put in steel to allow for a consistent gradual rollout. It seems as if its contents, distilled from the barley of six Islay farms, were aged solely or mostly in bourbon casks.

Islay Barley 2011 was released only in 2019 and has a six-year age statement. Its barley (Oxbridge and Publican) was harvested from three Islay farms, and its maturation was 75% first-fill bourbon casks and 25% second-fill Syrah and Figero wine casks. That wine is possibly not from Islay, but I digress.

I opened my second bottle of the 2008 last week and knocked the whisky line down about one-third of the way in the days leading up to this Taste Off. The 2008 always smells like an Islay kiln to me. This tasting will allow me to dig deeper than that.

Instead of buying a bottle of the 2011 blindly, I purchased a sample to try first. As you can see by the pic below, I chose to examine half of the sample before this Taste Off, such was my anticipation.

Engage.

NOTES


Port Charlotte 2008 Islay Barley, bottled 22.09.2016, 50%abv
(my bottle, one-third of the way down)


Compared to the Scottish Barley this is almost a different peat, not just a different grain source. There's a commingling of the outdoors and the industrial in the nose; herbs and leaves and moss and factory smokestack. Beneath the peat are green grapes and anise. Beneath that, hints of blueberry jam and butterscotch. Once the whisky is reduced to 43%abv, the nose shifts to stones, golden raisins and peated cookie dough.

Plumes of kiln smoke lead the palate, followed by sweet citrus and metal spoons. Bitter herbs and pickled ginger nip at the edges. Reducing the whisky to 43%abv turns the palate fruitier and sweeter. Pears and white peaches meet hay and lightly sooty smoke

The palate's kiln smoke rolls through the finish, where those small notes of ginger and bitter herbs ascend, and the sweet citrus regresses. At 43% the whisky finishes sooty with little bits of caramel sauce and dried herbs.


Port Charlotte 2011 Islay Barley, 2018 European release, 50%abv
(from a purchase sample)


The
nose leads with sautéed dried herbs and lemon zest. Ginger juice, hot concrete and freshly cut grass. A befouled hay note starts at the rear (har har), and gradually moves forward with time. It remains grassy and farmy, once the whisky is diluted to 43%abv, while picking up a briny salty air note, a hint of watermelon Jolly Rancher in the background.

The palate's smoke carries a raspberry essence, then meets with bitter herbs and orange marmalade. It gets sootier with time. It's a nice mix, picking up a red wine-like tobacco note after a while. It actually gets tighter and harsher once the whisky is reduced to 43%abv. Fewer fruits, though there's a touch of grape jam. More bitter smoke.

Surprising activity in the finish: soot, cigarettes, sweet berries and cabernet sauvignon. Dilution to 43%abv doesn't help the finish, instead shining a spotlight on bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I like 'em both! The 2008 reads heavier, while the 2011 has a bit of a smile to it. That may be due to the lack, and presence, of the wine casks. Where the current 10 year old's spirit blasts through the wine casks, the 2011 Islay wears its wine a little louder, but not too much. The 2008 is a hardy winter pour that can also stand up to some water. A proper time and place for the 2011 is more flexible, but dilution did it no good, much like Wednesday's two whiskies. I almost gave the 2011's verve the nod, but the 2008 is so stout and vivid that I'm just going to call it a tie.

SCORES SCORES SCORES

Port Charlotte 2008 Islay Barley - 87

Port Charlotte 2011 Islay Barley - 87 (neat only)