Today is the Bruichladdich open day on Islay, and we celebrate it taking a look at the old Port Charlotte Distillery and with a tasting of a wonderful new Port Charlotte in Cognac casks.
Port Charlotte Distillery was also known as the Lochindaal Distillery. It was established in 1829 and was operated under a succession of owners, until in 1855 it came under the ownership of John B. Sherriff and was operated by his family until 1920. At that point, it was bought by Campbeltown’s Benmore distillery, which was swallowed up by DCL in 1929. DCL promptly closed the distillery, eventually using it to warehouse some of the overflow from Caol Ila.
Alfred Barnard visited the distillery in the mid 1880s, and here are some of his impressions:
“We next passed Bruichladdich Distillery, which lies on the side of the road. Two miles further on we reached Port Charlotte, a village of little importance and interest except for the large Distillery owned by Mr. Sheriff, which employs a number of the labouring class, and gives some little life to the locality. At the back of the Distillery the ground rises into hills near the top of which are two beautiful lochs, the Garroch and Octomore, from whence the water supply to the Distillery is obtained….The Kiln is floored with German wire cloth, the first we have seen in the island, and we were informed that it is very expensive. Peat only is used in drying the malt, fired in open chauffeurs. The old Mash-house, which is kept very clean and is white- washed, contains a circular Mash Tun, the Underback, and two heating Coppers. In the Tun-room there are eight Washbacks, with an average capacity of 10,000 gallons each. The Still-house, which is a neat building, well lighted, contains three old Pot Stills and the usual Receivers and Chargers. On the opposite side of the road, on the sea shore, are several large bonded Warehouses, capable of holding 5,000 casks.”
The site is now owned by nearby Bruichladdich, who have revived the name in the Port Charlotte heavily peated range, and plans were made to actually rebuild the distillery. By 2012 they had all the permits, but the Remy Cointreau takeover seems to have put all these plans on ice, despite initial estimates that the takeover would actually make funding the project easier. It’s worth noting that Bruichladdich brought over all the distillation equipment from the Inverleven Distillery (a malt distillery built inside the Dumbarton grain distillery), so theoretically, making it happen shouldn’t be all that complex. In any event, it seems that for the foreseeable future our Port Charlotte whisky will be distilled at Bruichladdich.
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 2007, 8 Year Old CC:01, Cognac Casks – Travel Retail (57.8% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold, solid necklace letting off very thin legs.
Nose: Dry nose, the cognac is quite noticeable, hint of hazelnut, butterscotch, salty and somewhat oaky, with a lot of vanilla and a hint of maltiness.
Palate: Sweet and buttery, with a very distinct cognac-y note. Tannic with fire giving the feeling of burnt wood, drying on the tongue and cheeks, with a toffee like feel.
Linger: Long, with an overall dryness and a notes of Grande Champagne Cru Cognac and hints of marshmallow.
This is a beautiful expression, highlighting some notes that are less prevalent in whisky, all the while keeping true to the promise of being different than your run of the mill predictable whisky.