Let’s stay on Islay and continue with the distilleries I didn’t cover in December. After Monday’s Kilchoman detour here is a stop at Bruichladdich. This was the fifth limited release of the peated Port Charlotte distillate en route to the eventual regular release of the 10 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the PC6, PC7 and PC8: here now is PC9. This is from the 2002 vintage, bottled in 2011 at the age of 9. The series was supposed to end with PC8 but they decided to keep going with more limited releases (this is bottle 1086 of just 6000; compare to the 30,000 of PC8). Well, they did say at the time of the release that this was going to be the last limited release before the “full-scale bottling” in 2012 but as it happens there was a PC10 (I have an unopened bottle). And then the PC11 and a PC12 were also released later. Both of the latter were travel retail releases and I do not have bottles of those. I assume the series ended there. By the way, the info sheet for PC9 only mentioned American oak but the official tasting notes refer to Spanish sherry casks. As it was not touted as a sherry-matured release, I think we can assume it was a vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (most sherry casks are also made of American oak). Let’s see what it’s like.
Port Charlotte PC9 (59.2%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Ah, the familiar scalded milk/parmesan rind notes! More butyric on the second and third sniffs, distracting from the lovely lemony, briny smoke—I hope it burns off quickly. Well, it takes a while but then the sweeter coastal notes—uni, shells—emerge more fully along with some white pepper. The smoke gets more carbolic with each sniff and there’s some sweet ham brine too. With a few drops of water the coastal notes expand—more shells—and there’s some smoky cream.
Palate: The lactic/butyric notes are not prominent here, I am very glad to say. Instead, a big smoky punch with lemon and sea salt and oysters in its train. Nice texture and surprisingly approachable at full strength—though it does have a bit too much bite (as you would expect at nearly 60%). Sweeter and meatier as it sits and there’s more char to the smoke. Okay, let’s see what water does. Water takes the bite off and melds everything nicely but there’s nothing new per se. Hmm right at the end the pukey action returns, I’m afraid—not big but it’s here.
Finish: Long. The smoke gets ashy as it goes. The lemon lingers too as does the pepper. Sweeter here too with time and then again with water which also amplifies the pepper.
Comments: Well, this is very good, on the whole. The butyric/lactic notes on the nose are a bit too strong in the early going and after a mild initial presence on the palate I didn’t enjoy their sudden return in the last two sips. Other than that everything is choice with clean, sharp smoke and lemon and pepper. Well, I’m only in the top quarter of the bottle; hopefully the pukey notes will disappear completely as it sits with more air in it. I can’t say I get much sign of the sherry but that was true for me of PC7 and PC8 as well. Will that emerge with air in the bottle as well? Let’s see.
Rating: 87 points.