...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

A meditation on the Port Charlotte Cluster and other things

(Port Charlotte cluster homepage)

If you think this series has gone on for an eternity, I can relate. But time plus booze equals......a quicker march towards the infinite? I don't know, what was my point? Ah yes, these clusters disabuse me of all my previously held opinions, notions and theories about the distillery or brand of focus. Knowledge over romanticism. Three reviews, or even six reviews, just won't do.

Each cluster starts with excitement, like a new love, then it drifts towards fascination before slumping to boredom, then arising to objective distance, and finally curling up in exhaustion.

Twenty-four reviews later, I no longer see Port Charlotte as a "brutalist malt," "strange, jagged and stark, conjuring images of concrete and steel." When young it's a savory, salty, coastal thing, but to find that core, one has to dive beneath the heat of its often outrageous bottling strengths. As it ages, it releases its grip on those characteristics, sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly, depending on the maturation vessels. I'm sure this is the case with all whiskies, but I see Port Charlotte's development more clearly now.

By the time it reaches its mid-teens, Port Charlotte takes its spot among the great malts of Southern Islay. It trades most of its youthful eccentricity for balance and stability, resulting in a more familiar single malt.

But what is better? The excitement or the reliability? That is the crux of the biscuit, my friends. It depends on your preferences, as well as the moment. Is it mid-January in the Midwest, or late summer in Southern California? Are you watching the rain in Port Ellen, or wiping the sweat from your lower eyelids at a Ginza cafe in June?

For me, Port Charlotte (and Laphroaig and Lagavulin and Ledaig and Ballechin and Ardbeg and Kichoman and Hampden and Worthy Park) can be a rough drink in the summer. My palate has no disputes for the other three-quarters of the year, though.

Were price no barrier, I'd continue to explore bourbon-cask and sherry-cask Port Charlotte as it gets older, to see if it trends towards any other familiar single malt styles. For now, I'm perfectly happy to enjoy the official 10-year-old and Islay Barley editions. And I'm even happier that I still enjoy Port Charlotte at the end of this cluster.

Now on to the next one...

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