WhiskyReviews.net is a free service and always will be. However, if you would like to support the author you can do so by subscribing for just £1 per month. Alternatively, you can make a one-off donation of your choice. Thank you for your support.
The Story of the Port Charlotte Single Malt
In 2000, Bruichladdich Distillery was brought back from the brink of oblivion by a group of private investors led by Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin. Crucial to the success of the project, however, were two Ileachs, Duncan McGillivray and Jim McEwan.
The late Duncan McGillivray hauled the crumbling distillery from the abyss and slowly pieced it back together. His work in rescuing the Victorian equipment has become the stuff of legend and the quality of the spirit being produced nowadays is testament to his hard work. Jim McEwan, meanwhile, was well established in the Scotch whisky industry, having served as manager and global ambassador for Bowmore for many years. When many others would have been forgiven for slowing down, however, McEwan relished the notion of a new challenge and threw himself into the Bruichladdich project.
In those early days many were sceptical. Some felt the distillery was simply too far gone to save but others claimed Bruichladdich was never a “proper Islay” anyway, since the whisky was completely unpeated. The new production team found that to be a ridiculous suggestion since the whisky was distilled and matured on Islay by Ileachs. How much more Islay can you get? Then Jim McEwan had an idea. He would create a new whisky in the traditionally peated Islay style.
The village of Port Charlotte stands a short distance along the coast from Bruichladdich. Once upon a time it was home to the Lochindaal Distillery but it closed in 1930 and only a few warehouse buildings remained. Nevertheless, it was the perfect inspiration for Bruichladdich’s new product. In his book “A Journeyman’s Journey”, Jim tells how he sought out the only surviving Ileach that had tasted Lochindaal’s whisky. Asking him for a description he was given the not-so-helpful note “it was good”.
So McEwan set about designing the whisky from scratch. The only brief was that it should be peated to 40ppm and taste different from everything else on the island. The Port Charlotte spirit first ran from the stills in 2001 and the PC5 bottling was launched in 2006. That first release was 5-years-old and it was followed each year by an older vintage from PC6 all the way up to PC12.
Today, Port Charlotte is but one of four brands produced at the distillery. The others are Bruichladdich, Octomore and The Botanist Gin.
An Turas Mor was released way back in 2012. It was the first no-age-statement, or non-vintage, Port Charlotte bottling. It has long since been discontinued but I managed to grab a bottle at auction for a very reasonable price. It’s bottled at 46%.
Smell: Ashy smoke. Coal fires. Tar. Old ropes. Old, cracked leather. Seashells. Brine. Salty air. Liquorice. Also barley malt, honey and vanilla. Werther’s Originals caramel sweets. Some green apples and lemon.
Taste: Peppery smoke on arrival. Sea-salt and black pepper. Tobacco smoke. Wood smoke. Like smouldering damp driftwood on a beach bonfire. As you would expect with any Bruichladdich, the flavour of the malt is noticeable. There’s also some oak notes in there with charcoal. A bit of toffee too. Honey. Vanilla. Some fruitiness as well. Almost a berry note. Jam even.
Thoughts: It’s been a joy getting to know this whisky. The first Port Charlotte I bought was the old Scottish Barley release in 2014 so this one predates it but nevertheless reminds me of it. It’s young and powerful but never aggressive and remarkably complex in the way it balances the thick smoke with the light, fruity spirit that comes out the Bruichladdich stills. No wonder Port Charlotte became the success it is. Jim McEwan and his team were getting it right from the very beginning.
Price: Upon its original release, An Turas Mor cost around £30 – £35 a bottle. I paid £50 for it. I’ve long been a fan of Port Charlotte but I was still a relative newbie when this stuff first came out and I missed out on it first time around. £50 doesn’t seem a lot to pay to revisit a wee piece of history.