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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Port Charlotte Taste Off -- PC8 and PC10 and PC12

(Port Charlotte cluster homepage)

I reviewed PC5, 6 and 7 last Friday, survived the experience and will now resume the Port Charlotte cluster with three more members of the PC series. The PC6 and PC7 were excellent, and now I'll see if they'll be matched or bettered by their older siblings, the PC8, PC10 and PC12.

Like its predecessors, Port Charlotte 8 year old PC8 Ar Dùthchas was distilled in 2001, Bruichladdich's first year of running the Port Charlotte malt. Released from 2009 to 2011, PC8 had the largest of the PC outturns, 30,000 bottles. It seems to have been matured only in American oak, and was bottled at skinny-for-PC 60.5%abv. This sample was from a bottle split.

Port Charlotte 10 year old PC10 Tro Na Linntean was distilled in 2002 rather than 2001 (did they run low on inaugural vintage casks?), and bottled in 2012. It also had one of the smallest of the PC outturns, only 6,000 bottles. It weighs in at 59.8%abv and, like the 8, it was matured in American oak (per the Internet). This sample was donated to me by St. Brett of Riverside. Thank you, sir.

The final member of the series, Port Charlotte 12 year old PC12 Oileanach Furachail made its debut in Travel Retail shops in 2014, then later found its way to European retailers. 12,000 bottles were released across at least three batches (2014, 2015 and 2016). I don't know anything about its maturation vessels since that was again kept curiously quiet by the producers. Serge tried a dud from 2015, and thinks some wine casks were in that mix. Using math skillz, I'm going to guess the whisky was distilled in 2002. Using reading skillz, I'll state the abv was 58.7%. This sample was purchased.

A toast to spring, wherever it is!

Port Charlotte 8 year old PC8 Ar Dùthchas, 60.5%abv

The nose has malt, seaweed, anise and cantaloupe in the midground, but wasabi and smoked miso (a thing?) are right up front. It's the wasabiest whisky I've ever smelled. It picks up more peat, farm and stone fruit with time. Reducing the whisky to 50%abv simplifies the nose, keeping it focused on nuts, stones, miso and mesquite smoke.

The very earthy palate is loaded with soil, stones and cut grass. Charred meat and black walnuts fill the middle. Limes and a few drops of peach juice give it a little bit of tartness and sweetness. Somehow the palate intensifies at 50%abv. More smoke, minerals and heat. No fruit, less earthiness. Maybe a hint of soap.

Like the earlier PCs, this whisky is sootiest in its finish. Soot soot soot and salt, with moments of tart apples and limes. Things don't change much when the whisky is diluted to 50%abv. It's tart, salty and sooty.

PC8 approaches the monolithic style of some Octomores, but the fruity moments and great nose lift it up. Despite the whisky's massive nature, I don't recommend diluting it. It must be taken head on. It's very good, but (and I know this sounds like heresy, again) maybe a fortified wine cask or two could have elevated it further?


Port Charlotte 10 year old PC10 Tro Na Linntean, 59.8%abv

At first the nose is identical to PC8's, and requires 10-15 minutes for it to go off on its own. Then it gets chalkier and hotter, with more classic peat smoke. It also picks up notes of white chocolate, yuzu, brine and new sneakers. Diluting it to 50%abv adds flowers and apples, reducing the smoke. Some chalk and white chocolate remain in the background.

The palate begins with an odd mixture of red wine and low-ester Hampden rum. It's quite acidic and the smoke drifts from a mineral style to bitterness with time. Maybe some milk chocolate in the back. At 50%abv it's salty and rummy. Some mild sweetness and woody bitterness. A little weird, honestly.

Back to the Jamaican rum and mineral smoke in the finish. Acidic and hot. Reducing the whisky to 50%abv adds limes and band-aids but also turns it bitterer.

What was in that "American oak" before Port Charlotte was applied? PC10 gets points for being different than the rest, but it's also chaotic in a way that's not always forgivable. This is certainly not the strongest of the bunch. Love the nose, though!


Port Charlotte 12 year old PC12 Oileanach Furachail, 58.7%abv

Ah the nose shows the great seaweed and miso combo again. A mineral, earthy smoke sneaks in. Smaller notes of Twix bars, cherries, limes, yuzu and salty potato chips add angles and corners. The nose gains focus at 50%abv, with seaweed, miso, pine, limes and a farmy whiff.

Starting to see some more mature peated whisky now, especially in the palate. Not much heat, moderate smoke, a slight inkiness. Lemons and black walnuts. Berries, grapefruits and nectarines. Despite all that fruit, the whisky never gets too sweet. Reduced to 50%abv, the palate takes on more minerals, as well as hints of kiln and earth. Just a touch of the tart fruits in the background.

It finishes with black walnuts, cocoa powder, wood smoke, a little bit of tart fruit and the nose's salty potato chips. When diluted to 50%abv, the finish matches the palate, adding a little more tartness.

Next to PC7, this is the most complex of the bunch. There may be a variety of casks at work here, but they come together very well, resulting the least wild PC of the six I've tried. The extra age doesn't hurt either. It has me wishing I hadn't waited so long to try it, so that I could have bought a bottle at its original price. Oh well. If you have a bottle of PC12, I hope it's more like this whisky than the one Serge had tried.


As I had hoped, this was an impressive range of whiskies from 5 to 12 years old. It's too bad Remy Cointreau killed off the series after PC12. At least they could have later offered up a regular 12yo Cask Strength as an upscale counterpart to the excellent standard 10 year old. Seriously, they should consider trying out a non-winey full-powered Port Charlotte in the regular range. It could be some of the best stuff on the island.

Next week, I'll assess the cluster at its halfway point, then continue on.