Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2012

Maker: Bruichladdich, Islay, Argyll, Scotland, UK (Rémy Cointreau)

Region: Islay

Style: Peated Single Malt

Age: 6 y/o

ABV: 50%

Note: Made with barley grown on Islay.

Michigan state minimum: $65

Appearance: Pale straw.

Nose: Hardwood ash, peat, dark chocolate, toasted oak, vanilla.

Palate: Full bodied. Smoky dark chocolate, burn.

Finish: Cigarettes, chocolate pudding.

Parting words: Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich’s heavily peated range of single malts, not to be confused with their Octomore range of super-heavily peated malt. This is the first Port Charlotte I’ve purchased and I enjoyed it more than I expected.

I like young, fiery, Islay malts, but I was skeptical that 6 y/o was going to be too young. It’s not. Port Charlotte 2012 is wise beyond its years. It somehow tasted more mature than some bottles of Laphroaig 10 I’ve purchased. There’s a lot of chocolate and smoke and it pairs very well with the former.

I’d have to do some kind of side-by-side tasting to determine if using local barley makes a difference in the finished product, and I’m generally skeptical of the impact of terroir, especially in spirits. Whether it makes a difference in the glass or not, it’s a very cool thing to use local grain for a product like this. More distilleries should do this.

$65 is a good price for a quality, vintage dated, high ABV single malt like this. Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2012 is recommended.

The Botanist

Maker: Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland, UK

Style: Dry Gin

ABV: 46%

Appearance: Crystal clear

Nose: Vaguely rustic. Juniper, heather, sweet angelica.

On the palate: Full-bodied and well balanced. Dry on first entry, but then skewing sweet. Classic gin botanical notes, but few stand out. Also, as in the nose, a vaguely earthy, rustic taste on the back end, maybe a hint of seaweed and rainy beach.

Finish: Sweet, then dry, then herbal and fruity. Raisins, figs, thyme.

Mixed: Works well in most drinks. Gets the job done in a Tom Collins and a Gin & Tonic. Works fine in a Negroni too, but seems wasted in the above three drinks. In a dry martini it really shines, but go easy on the vermouth. My usual ration is 2:1 gin to vermouth. When using the Botanist, consider something like 4-5:1. It will taste fine the other way, but this gin has so many beautiful nuances, you’ll want to make sure the Botanist is leading all the way.

Parting words: The Botanist is made by Bruichladdich (Brew-kladdy), a (formerly) independent whisky distillery on the isle of Islay in the Hebrides islands in Scotland. It thinks of itself as “progressive”, though the way they make this gin seems more retro than prog. Bu that’s a good thing. In addition to what they call the traditional nine botanicals used in dry British gins, 22 herbs and spices are gathered from around Islay, including some native juniper.

At any rate this is an excellent gin, one of the few I’ve had that I can actually enjoy neat. It is subtle, complex and all around delicious. The Botanist is highly recommended.