An enigmatic woman with her sleeves rolled up, working a barbecue grilling station on a lazy weekend afternoon. Her stalking beauty leaves a lingering scent of desire, stirring men and other women. If this Port Charlotte 11 year-old was to take a human form, I imagine myself conversing with this lady. Smoky at ﬁrst whiff. Strong and well-rounded at ﬁrst sip. The aromatic mix of wood and sea in this peated whisky leaves a lingering aftertaste that draws men back with desire. Ron Swanson would be pleased with my analogy of this peated whisky with a strong, independent woman (get the Parks and Rec reference?).
The colour is an elegant shade of pale gold. Nosing it, the ﬁrst whiff was irrefutably smoky, not a surprise from a Port Charlotte. On the second whiff, beyond the peripheral of what seems like a barbecue meat grilling station, a fuller note of a mossy aroma hits (along with gentler hints of wood). Again, this is no surprise, as Islay's coastal location means that the peat here has more seaweed and moss than the more woody peats of the mainland. Its distinctive salty, smoky aroma is absorbed by the malt and carries through into the ﬁnal product. At barrel-strength of 55.4% alcohol, it reﬂects all the power and strength of the island as Islay malts are also famous for being the most full-ﬂavoured of Scottish whiskies, identiﬁed by their earthy, smoky, peaty ﬂavours, often with distinguishing hints of iodine and tar.
Moving to the palette, I was pleasantly surprised that the ﬂavoursome composition comes in gentle waves, reminiscent of rich honeyed char siew pork with aromatic temple incense. While you could taste its strong volume and smoky proﬁle at ﬁrst sip, the gentle smoke is not so predominant that you could make out a good amount of vanilla and dash of peppery spice. Without losing this flavour composition, on second taste, you start to appreciate other notes on the spectrum, particularly its mossy sea characteristics, and hints of earth and oak. The ﬁnish is smooth, with continued lingering notes of incense smoke, moss and oak.
That said, cask-strength alcohol and heavy peat in such whiskies tend to take the centre stage and somewhat mask the full spectrum of flavours. After a few sips neat, a few drops of fresh spring water ought to be added to the Port Charlotte to better open up the aromatic structure it contains. After adding some water, for me, I receive more intensified honeyed bourbon and vanilla notes, while heat and spice is subdued and there isn't the initial alcoholic prick you get drinking neat. In the finish the peat lingers a fair bit longer along with some mossy seaside driftwood profile, closing off with subtle taste of stewed apples.
To enhance / compliment a gently smoked yet strong and ﬂavoursome peated whisky like this, a personal recommendation would be pairing it off with some light snacks (like the mini-pretzels chips I am having), a cheese and charcuterie board, seafood, and wait for it — dark chocolate!
P/S: A little more behind the bottling of this Port Charlotte 11 years old. It was not the distillery itself that bottled the Islay whisky, but the independent bottler Rest & Be Thankful Co that did. The company acquires promising distillates from various distilleries and releases them in the form of exclusive single cask bottling. Interestingly, the company’s name ‘Rest & Be Thankful’ is derived from an old inscription that can be found on a stone near a historic military road in the west of Scotland. As the road was so steep, hikers traditionally took a break at the highest point and were reminded to be grateful for their respite.