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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.


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.


Port Charlotte 9 year old 2010 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. 


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.

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