Port Charlotte PC7: 61% abv
Background: Port Charlotte is the “branch” of Bruichladdich that focuses on the heavily peated Scotch of their range. Don’t be confused; Port Charlotte is still distilled at Bruichladdich. It just differentiates their heavily peated products from the rest of them. Even more confusing is the existence of Octomore, another peated Bruichladdich made with extremely high levels of peat smoking, which is normally measured in PPMs (parts per million) of phenol content in the barley grain. But enough about that; more on this specimen. In Review 180, we talked about PC6 and the PC series. This is the next in line, being aged in traditional oak casks for 7 years. It is bottled at a monster 61%. This is bottle 23,717 out of 24,000. Let’s give this whisky a good look.
Nose: This whisky starts off with a greatly earthy, grassy peat smoke. The smell of fresh cut grass, wood smoke, and mossiness is prominent in the aroma, with a hint of sawdust. There is a large amount of savory flavor and vanilla, with a huge spiciness to it. An almost sweet and tangy meat sauce smell is present here. A notable floral rose note is also noticeable. To add to the complexity, a slightly powdery cocoa smell layers into the aroma. There is a coastal, saltiness involved with a bit of nuttiness and sweet, fresh maltiness.
Arrival: The whisky, as expected starts off with a hot, spicy arrival. It is surprisingly smooth at first, with a peat and spice coming in later. There is a very salty, seaweed-like flavored feel in there. Because of the high alcohol content, there is not a lot that can be observed here before flavor is lost and taking over by the hot alcohol influence. The arrival also has a significantly bready flavor to it.
Body: The body contains a lot of malt, peat, caramel and oakiness to it. There is some chocolatey flavor in here, with some nuttiness so far. The saltiness becomes very big here, in a pleasant way. There is a lot of crispness in the body as well. Tea and tobacco are noticeable in the body.
Finish: The finish has a significant amount of malt and peat to it, while continuing the coastal, salty theme. There is a bitter, herbal taste present in the finish. Tea tree oil and tobacco are present in the finish, with some spices as well, including peppercorn. There is a little yeast that carries over from the arrival.
Nose: There is a lot of woodiness after adding water, including dry pine wood. There is some vanilla and honey present. The grain flavor is starting to open up in the aroma now. The alcohol has broken loose in the aroma now, making the smell burn much more than before.
Arrival: There is more sweetness in the arrival than before, with some dry, bitter wood. A lot of honey and vanilla is present. The wood is huge in the arrival.
Body: The body presented a lot more malt and nuttiness. The saltiness and tobacco is still big in the body. There is some tannic flavor in the body, with some oak flavor as well. Astringent citrus is present in the body much more now.
Finish: The finish has become very phenolic and medicinal. It is malty and nutty, but ends on a dry, coastal note that is complex and lasting. There is a strong, minty flavor in the finish. It has a fresh, cooling sensation as the whisky dissipates. The peat and phenol last an incredibly long time in the finish. An interesting presence of corn is also present in the finish.
Final Comments: Port Charlotte PC7 is not an outstanding peated Scotch. It is young and brash, displaying angry fists like a drunken sailor might. It lacks the finesse and complexity we’ve seen with other malts, and for that reason it doesn’t jump forward as exceptional. That being said, what it lacks in complexity and tactfulness, it makes up for in pure, unadulterated bravado and presence. It is truly a big malt and a high strength. It is salty and briny, peaty and savory, and is not afraid to strut its stuff. We’ve enjoyed the many glasses of PC7 we’ve had, even if it isn’t what you’d consider “worth the money”. This is where you might cue the montage with sappy music, I suppose. In any case, it should be interesting to see where the Port Charlotte range evolves and how long it will live.
Why you’d buy it: You like the big bold peaty stuff and don’t care about the details
Why you wouldn’t: Something like Caol Ila or Lagavulin has just the right amount of finesse