Here is the fourth release in Bruichladdich’s cask strength series of releases of their heavily peated Port Charlotte whisky, the PC8, “Ar Duthchas”. (The barley for the Port Charlotte line is peated to 40 ppm, putting it in the Lagavulin and Laphroaig range.) It was released in 2009 and represents the last release in the PC series of spirit from the original 2001 distillation, making it 8 years old. That is to say, PC 9 is not a nine year old—I’m not sure what year the spirit used in that and subsequent releases is from.
The series is now up to PC11—I’m not sure if there’s an endgame for the series or if there’s always going to be an ever-older annual cask strength PC release. At any rate, with unopened bottles of the PC7, 9 and 10 on my shelf I’m not in any danger of catching up to them. I’ve previously reviewed (and emptied) the PC6 and I was not a huge fan of that one. This PC8, however, I thoroughly enjoyed and am looking forward to tasting it again.
The bottle is long gone and so this review is from a 6 oz reference sample saved from when the bottle was in its prime.
Port Charlotte PC8 (60.5%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle
Nose: A big blast of salt with oyster liquor, vanilla and phenolic smoke. The familiar Bruichladdich lactic/butyric note is here as well but it’s blended very nicely with the other aromas. Gets richer as it sits with more vanilla and cream—almost a smoky creme brulee. Some lemon emerges as well. After a while the phenolic smoke comes out on top but all the other stuff is still under it. A leathery sweetness too (if that makes any sense). The butyric note gets a little stronger as it sits but oddly doesn’t bother me as much as it usually does. With water there’s rather a lot more lemon along with a lot of wax; some green olive brine as well.
Palate: Hits with sweet peat, transitioning to salt and then back to sweet again as the smoke explodes. On the second sip there’s a lot more pepper with the smoke (crushed black peppercorns); on the third sip the salt jumps out. As it sits there’s more and more lemon as well (with waxy, bitter zest). Entirely drinkable despite the high strength, but let’s add some water: as on the nose, it gets more lemony and indeed it gets much more acidic/sharp. The smoke expands too—it almost gets more intense with dilution.
Finish: Long. A lot of smoke, a bit of lemon zest and quite a bit of pepper. Gets more bitter (herbal) and then on subsequent sips the salt from the palate expands and lingers. With more time the lemon zest expands as well. I don’t mean to downplay the smoke—there’s an ashiness on the sides of my tongue well past the swallow. With water it’s all about the lemon, salt and smoke, but some of that vanilla from the nose shows up late too now.
Comments: There are those who believe that peated Islay whiskies, especially from ex-bourbon* casks, are at their peak between 8 and 12 years old. This is a whisky that supports that position. The butyric/lactic note that usually bothers me in so much of Bruichladdich’s whisky is present but somehow works (and water makes it recede). That note aside, this is very reminiscent of bourbon cask Lagavulins in some ways. I got it for a fair bit less than $100 back in 2011—if I were to see it again for that price I’d get another without a second thought. I would suggest starting out neat but adding a drop or two of water once you’ve gotten through 2/3 of the pour.
*It should be noted that officially this is described as matured not in ex-bourbon casks but in American oak casks. Of course, most sherry casks are also made from American oak. I note this not to suggest that I think there were ex-sherry casks in this vatting but to echo once again the notorious Mr Tattie Heid who likes to remind people that many of the characteristics we associate with a cask’s previous contents may in fact be far more attributable to the wood it’s made of.
Rating: 90 points.