I'll skip the full tale. The bare bones orientation is that Bruichladdich, the Islay distillery with the highest stills and the tradition of sweeter, less peated and more floral drams, reopened under new management May of 2001 with Jim McEwan as master distiller. Bruichladdich was to continue tradition as sweet and clean so McEwan resurrected the Port Charlotte name for peated expressions. McEwan created a powerful cask strength expression with intense peat and big big flavors that startlingly broke the Bruichladdich mold when released at a young 5 years as PC5. The same distillate has been released each year, dwindling the stocks of that initial 2001 run. Each year features a distinct wood finish. The PC5 had a bourbon wood primary aging and a sherry cask finish. PC6 had a madeira finish. PC7 was aged entirely in American oak ex-bourbon - as was PC8. This review is of the second year release PC6, bottled at 61.6% abv.
I have already reviewed the Port Charlotte PC7 expression and I am preparing a review of the PC8, which I have been living with a while. A sample of the PC9 is on order and PC5 has been abandoned as a an overpriced pipe dream (I simply missed the boat - with only myself to blame). I will write a comparo of the PC6,7,8, and 9 in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I will treat the PC6 as a stand alone review here:
Color: Pale Gold with slight rosy peach blush tints
Nose: Peat and iodine first, with some floral sweetness underneath. It's like smelling heather on the peat muddy moors overlooking the salt spray with a strong head wind... The peat is the turf kind - with little smoke in the nose. Almost like Caol Ila but more more more. With extended air there is more sweetness and some nutty notes.
Entry is sharp as a razor and off dry. Huge explosion of honeyed malt and cereal grain body, earthy peat, salt cod, smoked kippers, sea air, and mineral rock. Spirit heat doesn't show up as pepper, but as fire and physical force within the peat. The peat is big, raw, visceral, and in your face. Magnified as a flavor element like never before in my experience I can examine every minute detail of the hot burning earthy peat as if under a gustatory microscope. It has salt and mud and coal-like bituminous notes: smoky, dirty, earthy, maritime. The cereal malt is bold, raw, organic feeling, and off dry. There's no honeyed forepalate refuge. The cereal is organic, sprouted, earthy and barley-flavored. The honeyed notes come late in the midpalate and they are far far below; as if you have to chew through the char to get to the sweet malted kernel beneath. Raw, immediate, direct and 150 decibels loud - Port Charlotte 6 screams the simplicity of its pungent humble elements with the subtlety of a B52 carpet bombing strike.
Folks are either going to love this in the same way they love depression era WPA photography: dark, intense, gritty, gut wrenching reality. Or they will hate it as a dark, sooty, iodiney, insanely overproofed gastronomic ordeal. And of course it is both.
For those who seek to break through their jaded complacency with pleasant malts - or those craving in-your-face terroir - PC6 delivers the goods. This isn't just a dram of whisky. This is a trial by fire.