For a recent Robert Burns night, our friends at Bruichladdich sent a selection of Port Charlotte releases, plus a number of delightful Scottish snacks, to celebrate the Bard of Ayrshire. New amongst the bottlings we received was this 2012 vintage release of Port Charlotte Islay Barley, a heavily peated single malt made 100% from barley sourced from the island of Islay. It’s 7 to 8 years old, aged 75% in first fill American oak, 25% in 2nd fill wine barrels (these were merlot and syrah casks in the 2011 release, and are presumably the same in 2012).
Again, it’s a bruiser when you compare it side by side with the delightful Port Charlotte 10 Years Old, which is so full of stone fruit and sweet nougat. Here, the peat is more immediate and up front on the nose, but it’s deftly and quickly backed up by ripe banana (and banana bread), tangerine, and a gentle nuttiness in the mix. Creamy and chewy on the tongue, the whisky smolders for what feels like days, as the earthy peat starts to slowly kick in. The finish is smoky but not ashy — moderately briny and dry, but still filled with fruit. It’s easy to keep sipping on, as you enjoy the flavors sliding back and forth between smoke and fruit.
I’m finding more balance here than the prior rendition, but I like it best as a compare-and-contrast companion to PC10.