Port Charlotte’s latest vintage Islay Barley release — made entirely from heavily peated barley grown on the island — has arrived. It’s our first look at the bottling since the delightful 2012 expression, and as is customary for the release, the aging regimen has taken a few twists and turns. Peated to 40 PPM, its 7 years of maturation is completed 84% in first fill bourbon casks, 8% in second fill virgin oak, and 8% in second fill Bordeaux wine casks — a much lower wine barrel proportion than the 2012 release.
Cracking open this fresh bottle is a delightful reminder of what a well-rounded Islay malt Port Charlotte is — even with its slightly off-putting “heavily peated” designation attached.
I’d characterize the nose as lightly smoky, not heavy, and quite sweet, showcasing honey and stone fruit that’s been touched with spices — both red pepper and a touch of exotic saffron in the mix. Warming on the palate, the whisky again kicks off with lovely sweetness, more honey and acidic lemon pepper infusing a silky, oily body. Notes of ginger and baked apples work well with growing elements of cinnamon and dried apricots, all filtered through a wholly approachable campfire-driven smokiness, finishing on a note of binchotan charcoal that is tempered by a modest touch of salty sea spray.
Bruichladdich includes melon in its tasting notes and it took me some time to get there, but eventually they do finally show themselves, and in quite delightful fashion, adding an almost Midori-like quality to the proceedings — an odd side note that’s tough to place but which, once identified, is unmistakable. It’s not something I normally find, or even think about, when reviewing a whisky, especially an Islay Scotch, but once you catch the added nuance, it’s tough not to cling to with both hands.