I believe this is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve yet tried—it was bottled in 2013, just short of its 12th birthday. I’ve liked most of the Port Charlottes I’ve had a fair bit (the PC 8 most of all), with the heavy peat masking more or less effectively—as it does in Octomore as well—the sour milk note I usually get from current era-Bruichladdich’s distillate. This one, a single cask from the German bottler, Malts of Scotland, is a sherry cask to boot, and a sherry hogshead at that. It will be interesting to see how the combination of sherry, heavy peat and a bit of age work with this spirit.
The age also makes me wonder what Bruichladdich’s plans for the Port Charlotte line are. The Port Charlotte 10 was released a couple of years ago: are they going to be releasing and older version of that as well? And is the cask strength PC series going to keep going?
Port Charlotte 11, 2001 (58.2%; Malts of Scotland; sherry hogshead MoS 13052; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Cereal, sharp medicinal peat, some grapefruit, a bit of salt and also, alas, some sour milk. Ashy smoke shows up next and expands, and the sour milk gets a bit more pronounced—let’s hope it burns off. Some sweeter notes lurk under the alcohol but not a lot of obvious sherry at first. The pukey note does indeed dissipate with five minutes or so of airing and now there’s a very bright, coastal thing (salt crystals, sea shells, kelp) going on alongside the ashy smoke and the sweetness which I want to say is almondy. Quite a bit later the lactic thing is back, but not as strong as before. With water it’s gone again and now the coastal thing and the almond note are quite pronounced.
Palate: None of the sour milk on the palate, thank goodness. Instead it leads with sharp, peppery smoke (peppery as in capsaicin not black pepper) getting more medicinal and slightly bitter (quinine) as it goes. Hot but very drinkable and a nice oily mouthfeel. Not much evidence of sherry here at first either. With time there’s more citrus (lemon and lemon zest rather than grapefruit) and the salt shows up earlier. The pepper and sharp smoke show no sign of abating. With more time the sour milk shows up here too but it sort of works with everything else. Brighter and sweeter with water (wet stones turning to simple syrup) but no less peppery or smoky.
Finish: Long. The bitter notes transition into salt which hangs around for a long time alongside the smoke. More lemon on the finish too with time and some almond oil. With water the pepper hangs around for a long time as well.
Comments: Well, the sherry barely spoke. Still, it was very nice indeed, and, other than that telltale sour milk note, quite reminiscent at different points of both both bourbon cask Lagavulin and Caol Ila (though much smokier than the latter, of course). And the sour milk didn’t bother me as much as it sometimes does. This bodes well for longer aged Port Charlotte, if they are indeed going to go that route. On the whole, I liked it more with water.
Rating: 87 points.