The latest single malt from the storied Scotch house encapsulates everything a true Islay whisky can and should be.
“Progressive Hebridean distillers.” That’s how the fine folks at Bruichladdich would like to be addressed and it seems outright rude to regard them otherwise. The storied Scotch house continues to flex its muscles as the most innovative producer on Islay (aka Whisky Island, off the southwestern coast of Scotland). And yet, ironically enough, everything edgy being done here is actually just a throwback to the forgotten practices of the past. Let’s uncork the brand’s latest release as a peated point in case: Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014.
This 100-proof smoke bomb is distilled with barley grown from within 15 miles of the distillery. Accentuating this provenance is a battery of cooperage consisting predominantly of first-fill bourbon casks, but also leveraging a notable percentage of virgin oak, along with second-fill Bordeaux wine barrels.
Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014 Tasting Notes
The convergence results in an eminently complex drinking experience. Yes, the heavily peated liquid still noses with textbook tones of iodine and freshly paved motorway, but on the palate is something far more, well, palatable: creme brûlée and candied stone fruit. It’s sweet yet sophisticated.
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In fact, there’s nothing else that tastes quite like it. Nor could there be: Bruichladdich’s team works closely with eight local farms to arrive at an ultra-specified degree of provenance and traceability. Head distiller Adam Hannett could literally walk you down to the exact field responsible for each batch of spirit that rolls off his stills.
“Our Port Charlotte Islay Barley expressions encapsulate everything a true Islay whisky can and should be,” he says of the ongoing series, which originally debuted back in 2005. “The latest 2014 vintage is no different. Growing on Islay, on Scotland’s rugged West Coast, [there’s] unpredictable weather coupled with grazing wild geese and deer, [which] means a successful harvest is never a given. But using Islay barley enhances our pursuit of flavor for a whisky that evokes a true sense of place.”
Thanks in large part to the success of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich has come to be known as an especially heavy-handed purveyor of peated expressions. Yet, for much of the past century, it was an outlier on Islay, as it worked mainly with unmalted barley. It remains an outlier among the industry as a whole in that it’s one of the only brands bold enough to proudly brandish sub-decade age statements. This latest release is just seven years old. It all goes to highlight that everything Hannett and company do is in service of flavor. If that makes them progressive distillers, we don’t want to waste our time with any other sort.
Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014 is now available to purchase at select U.S. specialist whisky retailers with a recommended retail price of $84.99.