• Richard Murff

Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte

Hard to pronounce, very easy to drink

Bruichladdich may sound like some ancient distillery, but it’s quickly becoming one of the more storied Islay malt whiskies around. Given my allergy to hype I came to this one a little dubious – but I was wrong. I didn’t feel bad about it, you understand, at this point in my life I’m fairly used to it.


For example, while I’m certain that the slap-fight the last administration got into with the EU in October of 2019 was ill-advised, as it resulted in slapping a 25% tariff on Scotch whiskey. I was completely wrong, however, as to how short lived the mope would be. Since we’re all getting into the nuclear submarine business together the US lifted the tariff for the next five years. Which is something to lift a glass to. I suppose that I should have gone out an bought a bottle back in June to celebrate, but Memphis summers are brutal and I was busy drinking gin.


Yet, for everything there is a season. A few weeks ago at Sewanee’s parents weekend, I found myself at a house party with a fellow parent trying to pronounce Bruichladdich (bru-ladd-ie, or thereabout, I think that she got it right) while our daughters looked on in horrified embarrassment. Whatever we called it, we both approved.


If you can get your non-Celtic tongue around the name of the distiller, the expression is easier to pronounce, if a little unwieldly: Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Islay. I don’t know about the “heavily peated” business. This is a pretty accessible malt whisky that carries a bit of the smoky but not so much as say, a Laphroigh. Which, as a Southerner, I can only drink about three months out of the year, and then with a roaring fire and a faithful hound at my feet. If that sounds like more that you want out of a glass of whisky – Port Charlotte just might be right up your ally. It’s a casual sipper.


All scotch whisky is 100% barley, but Bruichladdich has sourced all of their product from the Islay and, of course, that water from near the North Sea. After spending three quarters of its shelf-life in ex-bourbon casks, Port Charlotte is finished in ex-wine casks. After 6 years, what you get is a medium bodied, honey colored dram that is going to poke your nose with earthy fruit, graham and vanilla. On the pallet, there is that lovely but peat smoke - you know it’s there – but Mrs. M, sitting on the other side of the room, doesn’t. Then there is that near-iodine sea water quality of the Islay whiskies. Port Charlotte finishes long, with a nice balance of all its parts.


Now I’d have liked that the price of scotch would have gone down after all parties had kissed and made up, but perhaps that’s too much to ask from the free market – still, at $65 for what really is a beautiful bottle, Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Islay is hard to beat.