Port Charlotte 2002 by Royal Mile Whiskies

Royal Mile Whiskies Port Charlotte 2002 (12yo)

It has been a while since my last review. The main reason for this is that the price of whisky, and the amount of ‘guff’ surrounding it, seem to be rising concomitantly. Thus my purchasing rate has slowed dramatically and has also veered into territory other than whisky. And those purchases I have made have tended to be the standard ones most are familiar with from the supermarket – usually when on offer.

Anyway, the subject of this review is Royal Mile Whiskies’ recent single cask Port Charlotte release, matured in rum casks for 12 years, which I received recently as a birthday gift. As you may know, Port Charlotte is an expression produced by the Bruichladdich distillery and peated to 40ppm. I’ve had a couple of bottles of PC from SMWS in the past, both nine years old and both gloriously worthy of the epithet ‘fire-water’. As is often the case with single cask bottlings this release is now no longer available, having sold out in around a month. So it seems almost contemptuous to tell you how good it is! However that never stopped Jim Murray. The diametric problem, of course, is trying in vain to find reviews of the many single cask and limited releases that are floating around these days, upon which to make an informed choice.

The colour, as you can see, is a bit orange, almost sienna. As rum, like whisky, is matured in either Bourbon or sherry casks one might presume we are dealing with the latter. However there are no disclaimers regarding the old E150. Initial nosing was all about the peat. There were log fires, fishing nets, diesel fumes, lots of pleasingly sooty, oily, ‘dirty’ notes. After some time in the glass I could discern some malt notes, biscuits, and also a sweet edge that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, something a bit candied.

The palate was prickly at first though this whisky is 46% so it has some fire about it. To digress for a minute, Port Charlotte is one of a few expressions that are casked at full strength – one SMWS example that I bought in 2012 was 65.9% – so I’m assuming this has been substantially reduced. Shame! Anyway, the peat continues from the nose, ashy with notes of cigar tobacco. However now the rum sweetness really comes through with marmalade and muscovado sugar and cream sherry (slightly nutty). The mouthfeel is distinctly waxy.

The finish is heralded by a chilli note, which intensifies and then fades, now becoming astringent and accompanying the ashy notes right to the end.

Serge Valentin mentions in his review of this whisky that it can be difficult to discern rum casks in whisky. As mentioned, rum will have been matured in a cask that has held something else previously, but there is some serious sweetness to this PC that may be attributable to the rum. I drammed a Laphroaig 18 aftwards and it seemed almost sour by comparison (I might even venture to say I preferred it to the Laphroaig). This is a great whisky, somewhat tamer than previous PCs I’ve tried but refined and multi-layered and with a full, mature weightiness. However, unfortunately, the RRP of £67 makes it a pricy dram for its age. If we are to accept the zeitgeist of whisky marketing at the moment, that flavour should drive the value, you could make a case for it. Call me old fashioned but I still believe in outmoded concepts such as the cost of production.

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