Port Charlotte PC6: 61.6% abv
Background: Cuairt beatha – the walk of life – I think this bottle is implying that the walk of life includes heavily peated Scotch. I highly support that sentiment. This whisky is of course a single malt Scotch from our good friends at Bruichladdich distillery. Being part of their heavily peated series, it goes under the title of Port Charlotte. Jim McEwan joined the Bruichladdich team in 2001 and started a series of peated heavyweights, called the PC series. PC6 has had exposure to ex-bourbon casks and a Madeira finishing cask as well. The bottle being drunk here is bottle 17,265 out of 18,000. It is 6 years old, as the name (PC6) suggests, and I’m really excited to try it.
Nose: Mmm. The smokey, intense, fragrant smell of peat never fails to excite me. This one is intense in vanilla, an interesting fruitiness, and a smell very reminiscent of pancake syrup. There is also an odd savory note that expresses itself on the top of the glass after some time in the glass. It reminds me slightly of a raw New York strip right before it’s slapped on the grill, which sounds like something you might not want to smell in a whisky, I realize. Don’t worry; it so subtle, you probably wouldn’t even notice. There is an assortment of berry fruitiness that is coming through prominently. This isn’t a dry smelling peat smoke, like you get out of Kilchoman. It is a thick, honey-sweet smoke that doesn’t overwhelm the senses, unless you’ve never smelled a peated Scotch that is. Baked apples with caramel are sort of a secondary notion in the nose. There is an earthy, herbal sense to it that sits in the background of some of the more dominant smells. Toasted nuts and fried bread are noticeable…fried bread, syrup, toasted nuts, and earthiness. Well, this whisky is obviously a funnel cake that’s been dropped on the ground (just a joke). The nose doesn’t display a challenging complexity, but it does have a diversity of flavors.
Arrival: The arrival starts off mellow enough, before quickly becoming excessively hot. If you’re looking for flavor without having added water to this whisky, look quickly. This will numb your tongue before you blink. The peat is assertive up front, but with a sweet, syrupy arrival parallel in prominence. It seems as if the Madeira is pretty dominantly asserting itself up front. Along with some honey, there is a slight citrus bite and some notes of fruits, but they don’t hold a candle to the intense battle the peat and Madeira are having up front. There is an earthy, slightly tobacco-like flavor in the arrival.
Body: The body banishes the initial sweetness, letting an earthy, grassy, and peat-like flavor to dominate. In the body, there is a really intense, but odd sort of quinine flavor that becomes apparent quickly and then dissipates. The body is probably the least eventful part of the whisky.
Finish: The finish is lasting, with the peaty, tobacco, and herbal flavors dragging through until the bitter end (ha ha). There is some slight peppercorn, with mild suggestions of sweetness showing dwindling signs of existence. There is orange rind present in the finish, for certain, and some mint and fluoride flavor as well. There is almost a piney, woody intensity in the finish that seems slightly like gin, without the extreme flavor. The finish is very diverse and interesting, without a doubt
Nose: With a little bit of water, notes of citrus start developing. The syrup-like sweetness has backed off a bit and to some extent, so has the peat. Maltiness is more prevalent, and some intense woodiness and ash smell has developed. There is still a level of sweetness present in the form of soft fruit notes.
Arrival: The arrival has lost some intensity, allowing the drinker to actually take some time and reflect on the taste (a nice feature). It is still peaty, in a zesty fashion, but has a basic element of marmalade sweetness to it. It is extremely earthy on the arrival now.
Body: The body actually takes a less intense and dry approach this time around, with some interesting lemon candy flavor coming through, with slightly floral elements complimenting it. It is better-rounded with water. There is vanilla present as well.
Finish: The finish is very much a reflection of how the body transformed after adding water. The balance changes, with the peppery dry/hot mouth feel still existing, but not completely destroying the taste buds. Much of the same flavors are present, with the smoky peat seeming to even out into a pleasant blanket of thick flavor on the tongue. That being said, the finish has become less complex and less eventful. At 61%, I would have guessed it to be a little more forgiving on the complexity side, but just playing with the water to whisky ratio could fix that.
Final Comments: PC6 is an expensive dram, to be sure, especially at the young age of 6 years old. I can’t say it isn’t an experience, and the Madeira cask finish is very well done in this case. Bruichladdich has produced a ton of fantastic malts, before and after McEwan. This particular malt isn’t a mind-blowing combination of complexity and uniqueness, but I believe it is does pretty well. The nose is inviting and different, and I think for a whisky this young, Bruichladdich does a good job of using the vibrant youth of the grain to make an exciting, yet enjoyable and tolerable malt. The million dollar question, or at least $125 question, is whether or not this is worth the buy. It is hard to say whether or not $125 is justifiable. It seems overpriced for value, but at 61%, at least they aren’t shorting you material. I guess I would say, if you enjoy peated whisky and are running out of “new” alternatives, the PC series won’t treat you wrong, but maybe the Peat Project, their newly released Scotch, will do just the same thing for you.
Why you’d buy it: You like the adventurous expressions by Bruichladdich and “want to catch them all”
Why you wouldn’t: It is hard to run across this bottle anymore, and you’ve tasted Peat Project