In 1885-6, when legendary writer on whisky Alfred Barnard visited Lochindaal at Port Charlotte on Islay as part of his marathon tour, he remarked on the “old-fashioned” distillery, and the fact that only peat was used to fire the stills which were producing a prodigious 125,000 gallons of spirit a year. Certainly contemporary photographs in the Islay Museum of History show huge piles of peat standing outside the distillery buildings.
Founded in 1829, one of many distilleries to be launched on the island around this time, transforming the working lives of many inhabitants from subsistence farming to paid jobs, Lochindaal existed for exactly 100 years before a combination of the Great Depression, prohibition in America and over-production in Scotland caused its closure. It later re-opened and passed from owner to owner, before production was moved a mile or two along the bay to Bruichladdich and was re-named Port Charlotte.
We at Vintage Bottlers are especially proud to be able to offer a 2001 Port Charlotte matured entirely in a single rum barrel, bottled at 48.7% ABV. This being the very first year of production of the new rendition of this superb malt whisky.
The light straw colour gives no indication of the myriad and varied taste pleasures that are to come. Matured in rum barrels, an initial hint of that spirit is quickly fused with dry peat smoke laced through with a sharp hint of citrus. And then the distinctive Islay iodine kicks in, betraying its seaside provenance and the briny Atlantic winds that have caressed the spirit over 21 years. There is a strong background of toasted oats, and with every sip, that earthy base that comes from a malt with a peat level of 40 ppm. The finish is long and smooth and smoky, calling to mind a favourite briar pipe that has long been allowed to go out.
For many generations, Islay malts have had an immense, worldwide fan club among those who prefer their whisky peat-laden, complex and serious. Our 2001 Port Charlotte is at once both an archetypal and an exceptional example of the genre. Superbly balanced, of great depth and hugely satisfying, the darts of orange and lemon zest that surprise the taste buds from beginning to end are a marvellous counterpoint to the smokiness.