...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Port Charlotte Cluster

My friend, Secret Agent Man, says Port Charlotte single malt "smells like a lobster fisherman's sweaty ass crack." And I say, "Yes. That is why I love it so."

How much do I love it? 24 new reviews worth. But not all at once this time. More on that later.


Port Charlotte is an actual place, a port town on Loch Indaal, near the Rhinns of Islay on the western side of the island. A distillery, first called Port Charlotte, later Lochindaal, produced malt there for 100 years until DCL (a.k.a. Proto-Diageo; a.k.a Distillery-Destroyer and Occasional Whisky-Maker) closed it in 1929.

map source

Bruichladdich distillery, built two miles down the road in 1881, was shuttered in 1995 only to be bought and reopened by Murray McDavid five years later. The 40ppm-peated Port Charlotte malt had its first still run at Bruichladdich distillery in 2001. PC5, a 5 year old 63.5%abv fire-starter, arrived in 2006, starting off the official Port Charlotte releases. Independent bottlings began in 2007, and the first official ten year old appeared in 2012. Remy Cointreau bought Bruichladdich and its three whisky brands — Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore — in 2013.


Bruichladdich's Octomore has the record-breaking peat levels and distinct bottle design. It's a graceful behemoth when done well; e.g. the early .1s, the .3s, and the first 10 year old. Port Charlotte's single malt has one-fifth to one-third of the peat levels of Octomore, yet it is the more brutalist malt. It can be strange, jagged and stark, conjuring images of concrete and steel. Or maybe that's just happens inside my brain.

Bruichladdich's unpeated malt can be a bit wonky, sometimes cheesy and milky in a way that doesn't seem quite right. Adding a generous helping of peaty PPMs to the mix creates something different than most (or all) Islay malts, and improves upon the standard Bruichladdich style, in my opinion.


Much like Kilchoman (the previous cluster malt), Port Charlotte is part of that distinctive batch of new whiskies (which also include Kilkerran and Arran) that first appeared on the market when many of us were new to single malt mania. As a result, those four malts have had a special place in my whisky heart for over a decade. My preferred Arrans are in the 10-14 year old range, while the Work in Progress series has produced my favorite Kilkerrans. Kilchoman's progression is a mixed bag, as I discovered in the Kilchoman cluster, which I will link to again right here. Their current sherry cask releases can be very good, the 100% Islays seem to be improving, but I've found the standard bourbon cask bottlings to be slipping considerably.


Now I plan to complete 24 Port Charlotte whisky reviews for your very eyes. That's a lot of Port Charlotte to subject you to. And a lot for me drink.

A few of the Kilchoman Cluster weeks turned out to be less fun than I'd anticipated because the whisky's style was occasionally not varied or interesting enough, which put my Whisky Attention Deficit Disorder to the test. Rather than blanketing this space with nothing but PC for at least two months, there are a few other interesting whiskies I'd like to share with you. So I'm going to change the structure of this cluster:

The first and last weeks of this series will be 100% Port Charlotte. All the weeks in between will have non-Port Charlotte content of some sort. Also, the Taste Offs will be single posts rather than stretching them out across multiple days. AND, I may blow up this whole approach if it doesn't work. But don't worry, we'll make it.

from Barnard's The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom


1. Port Charlotte An Turas Mor - "...a work in progress......I can't believe I'm saying this but I wish some wine casks were involved."
2. Port Charlotte Scottish Barley - "...accessible, as standard releases usually are, but......also forgettable."
3. Port Charlotte 2008 Islay Barley - "...a hardy winter pour that can also stand up to some water."
4. Port Charlotte 2011 Islay Barley - "...has a bit of a smile to it......wears its wine a little louder, but not too much."
5. Port Charlotte 8 year old 2007 CC:01 - "It's not terrible stuff, it's just very raw."
6. Port Charlotte 7 year old 2010 MRC:01 - "There was a path to make this single malt great, instead it is just loud."
7. Port Charlotte 9 year old 2010 OLC:01 - "Perhaps this is a Port Charlotte for people who don't like Port Charlotte?"
8. Port Charlotte 5 year old PC5 Evolution - "Startling in its violence"
9. Port Charlotte 6 year old PC6 Cuairt-Beatha - "..this is no longer just a work in progress, it's a complete whisky."
10. Port Charlotte 7 year old PC7 Sin An Doigh Ileach - "...this can stand up with the best Laphroaig 10yo CS and Lagavulin 12yo CS batches."
11. Port Charlotte 8 year old PC8 Ar Dùthchas - "...approaches the monolithic style of some Octomores, but the fruity moments and great nose lift it up."
12. Port Charlotte 10 year old PC10 Tro Na Linntean - "What was in that "American oak" before Port Charlotte was applied?"
13. Port Charlotte 12 year old PC12 Oileanach Furachail - "There may be a variety of casks at work here, but they come together very well..."

14. Port Charlotte 12 year old 2003, sherry hogshead #863 (private cask) - "....one wonders if it was bottled at this age out of fear of a dropping abv, rather than the whisky being fully ready."
15. Port Charlotte 14 year old 2003, refill sherry hogshead #857 (private cask) - "I adore the way its elements work together, and how welcoming it is despite its high strength."
16. Port Charlotte 10 year old 2001 Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead #12039 - "Bigger and better than any of the Octomores I've tried."
17. Port Charlotte 11 year old 2001 Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead #13052 - "There's something very Islay about the nose......a very good early winter pour..."
18. Port Charlotte 13 year old 2002 Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel #15011 - "...spirit-driven......this whisky reads the youngest [of the three MoS casks]..."
19. Port Charlotte 14 year old Batch 7, That Boutique-y Whisky Company - "it's not oak soup nor sherry soup nor mezcal soup.....it's a good cask that was bottled at the right time..."
20. Port Charlotte 14 year old 2004 Dramfool for Feis Ile 2019 - "...a great example of a fun, loud Port Charlotte that is not 63+%abv."
21. Port Charlotte 15 year old 2001 Dramfool, cask 0847 - "...familiar and very good, yet also indistinguishable from other Islays."
22. Port Charlotte 16 year old 2002 Dramfool, cask 243 - "Yeah, I'm okay with this......Well done, you Dramfools."
23. Port Charlotte 16 year old 2003 for Feis Ile 2020 - "This the oakiest Port Charlotte I've ever had."
24. Port Charlotte 16 year old 2001 Archives, cask 278 - "it's two different whiskies at 46%abv and 59.7%abv, and both versions are throughly enjoyable......Quality + flexibility!"