Port Charlotte 17, 2001 (Maltbarn)

Four reviews in a week—what is this? a spirits blog?

Here’s an indie Port Charlotte (the heavily peated whisky produced at Bruichladdich (but not as heavily peated as Octomore)). This is the oldest Port Charlotte I’ve reviewed and probably the oldest I’ve had. It was distilled in 2001, which may have been the year Port Charlotte started being distilled (please let me know derisively in the comments below if that’s wrong). I have reviewed another 2001 Port Charlotte; that was an 11 yo bottled by the German outfit, Malts of Scotland. I quite liked that one. This one is also bottled by a German outfit, in this case, Maltbarn; it was apparently their 105th selection—I had no idea they’d bottled that many; I think my first Maltbarn reviews were of some of their earliest releases (indeed, my first Maltbarn review was of their 8th release, an older Glenrothes). How the kids have grown up and so on.

Port Charlotte 17, 2001 (53.3%; Maltbarn; bourbon cask; from a bottle split)

Nose: The usual sour butter to start but it blows away almost immediately, succeeded by coastal notes (brine, kelp, oyster liquor) and below that some sweeter vanilla cream. Smoke too, of course, but it’s not hugely phenolic. More acid on the second sniff and then the vanilla expands as well. As it sits the coastal notes expand and are joined by some citronella. It all works very well together. With more time the butyric note comes back but it’s not overbearing. With a few drops of water that’s all pushed back and there’s some lemon peel and some wax and more cream.

Palate: Lovely. Starts out with ashy smoke and then the sweeter notes crash into it, melding perfectly. Lovely texture and bite at full strength. The smoke expands with every sip and the tar from the finish starts showing up earlier. Smokier with water and more peppery; some smoked fish too now (mackerel).

Finish: Long. The smoke expands as I swallow and keeps going; picks up a bit of tar along the way. More phenolic with water.

Comments: This is really very good. I will complain as always about that butyric note on the nose but there’s a lot more here to compensate for it. The development from the nose to the palate to the finish is excellent and it gets better on all three fronts with time and water.

Rating: 89 points.


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