Port Charlotte Pl1 (Elements of Islay)

The malts bottled by the Whisky Exchange in their Elements of Islay line have been of a uniformly high quality—at least, all the ones I have had have been very good. I remember the very first Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Caol Ila in the series were particularly good (I reviewed those in the early months of the blog: Ar1, Lg1, Lp1, CI1). They were also quite reasonably priced. Since then, as with the whisky market in general, the prices of these releases has risen sharply, making it harder to justify the value of what is after all NAS whisky. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy these when I get the opportunity—now that TWE no longer ships to Minnesota, that opportunity is when I am in the UK—but I am conscious of the fact that I am inclined to cut the Whisky Exchange some slack for their NAS releases that I do not extend to big whisky companies. Anyway, here is my review of the first Port Charlotte released in this series. Unlike the 1s linked above, this was bottled from a sherry cask. It was released in 2012 and I have no idea why I waited six years to open it. I’ve not had any of the others in the series; the Pl2 was from rum casks and the next two from wine casks, and I passed. I see that the Pl5, released this year, is from a bourbon hogshead. I’ll keep an eye out for that one. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. 

Port Charlotte Pl1 (60%; Elements of Islay; first fill sherry hogshead; from my own bottle)

Nose: The usual Bruichladdich sour milk/parmesan rind off the top but under that is rich peated sherry: tobacco, salt, smoke both leafy and phenolic, graphite, toffee, orange peel.  The smoke gets ashier here too with time. Water knocks the butyric notes back and brings out savoury/sweet notes (grilled fatty pork).

Palate: Ah, this is good. None of the sour milk here, just a big wallop of peat and salt and then the sherry complex. Surprisingly drinkable at full strength. With time the smoke gets ashier and saltier. The smoke gets even more intense with water and there’s cracked black pepper too now.

Finish: Long. The pipe tobacco is the top note here, mixed in with a fair bit of salt. As on the palate with water and pretty phenolic at the end.

Comments: This is really good stuff but I have to admit that for people like me who are suckers for this profile, liking this is about as difficult as liking flourless chocolate cake or bacon (unless you’re a vegetarian or an observant Jew or Muslim). Pure lizard brain pleasure, complexity not really the point.

Rating: 90 points.

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