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Friday, May 21, 2021

Two Port Charlotte private casks

(Port Charlotte cluster homepage)

Once upon a time, Bruichladdich distillery offered up private casks for all, right on their website. Those of you who went ahead and bought your own are some lucky sons of bi......rhting people (yeah, birthing people, that's the ticket). Those of you who bought your own casks of Port Charlotte, um, can we be friends?

I was very lucky to get in on bottle splits from two private Port Charlotte casks, both distilled in 2003, both from sherry hogsheads. It's the closest I'll ever get to the glory.

Port Charlotte 12 year old 2003, sherry hogshead #863, bottled by the distillery, 50%abv

The nose's two elements merge well. Peat, smoked fish, beach air and rotting kelp on one side. Plums, fruity cinnamon and cherry jam on the other. Hints of gunpowder and charred veg dot the background. Reducing it a little to 46%abv slightly calms the cask influence. More kiln and dried herb notes. Some mint and anise. Strawberry bubblegum!

The palate is SALTY, then smoky. Slightly meaty. Ah, cherry cola (complete with a fizziness). It gets much sweeter with time, developing notes of dried cherries and berries, as the cask moves to the front. It's much bitterer when diluted to 46%abv. It has a sharp raw bite and lots of soot, sort of Ardbeggish. Hints of almond extract and burnt raisins appear after a while.

It finishes sweet and smoky, and hotter than expected. Dried cranberries floating in Cherry Coke. Again, reducing it to 46%abv toughens it up. Burnt raisins, rooty bitterness and salty smoke remain.

I love how the cask and spirit play together in the nose, though it's more chaotic in the palate. In fact the palate's massive transition brought about with minimal dilution is a bit startling. The cask disappears and the whisky's age seems to get cut in half, if not a third. It's a bit wild overall, and one wonders if it was bottled at this age out of fear of a dropping abv, rather than the whisky being fully ready. It's still pretty good but it has a tough sparring partner.

RATING - 85 (neat only)

Port Charlotte 14 year old 2003, refill sherry hogshead #857, bottled by the Whiskybroker, 60%abv

The nose has at least three different gears. First, there's heavy smoke, seaweed, spun sugar and cherry jam. Next, it shifts to dried cherries and dried blueberries, almond butter and dark chocolate. Then, 30+ minutes in, the smoke eases off leaving behind a kind of toffee brittle. Reducing the whisky to 50% brings focus. Less cask, more spirit. Diesel, seaweed, smoked almonds and iodine.

There's less smoke in the palate than the nose. Rather it's grounded in earth and minerals, with hints of ginger ale and lemon juice, all wrapped in a gentle orchard fruit sweetness. It's very approachable for 60%abv. Dropping the ABV to 50% brings out wood smoke, brine and a touch of herbal bitterness. The sweetness remains mild, and picks up a slight metallic side.

The finish is magically less hot than its 12yo 50%abv sibling. It has a great balance of earth, minerals, nuts, citrus and sweetness. Diluting the whisky to 50%abv results in a finish that matches the palate, with little more savoriness.

A great cask. Though the nose is more complex, the palate is probably flawless. I adore the way its elements work together, and how welcoming it is despite its high strength. I cannot imagine having an entire freaking cask of whisky like this. Kudos to all involved.


There must be some of you out there who've tried (or owned!) a Port Charlotte private cask. What was your experience? Has anyone tried the bloodtubs of ancient lore? Please comment below because I would like to live vicariously through you.

1 comment:

  1. I've bought a few at auction. I find many of the MoS PC SCs to be fantastic. One particular is a top 5 all time whisky. The two Archives PC SCs are great and distinct as well.