Spirit Of The Week: Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014 Single Malt Scotch
It’s the only Scotch crafted with 100% locally-grown Islay barley.
Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery originally gained notoriety as being one of the few non-peated whiskies flowing from the famed isle of smoke, so it’s noteworthy that these days their peated releases are so beloved.
Bruichladdich’s first new expression of 2023 is Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014, the latest in the family’s heavily peated lineage (although at 40 PPM not quite as smoky as their Octomore branch).
Reimagined by terroir maestros coming from the winemaking world, Bruichladdich was the first distillery on the Queen of the Hebrides to start playing significantly with Islay-grown grains. Each year this commitment grows, as is the case with this 2014 vintage, made exclusively with barley harvested from eight farms that are all located within 15 miles of the distillery.
Overall Bruichladdich partners with some 20 Islay farmers to produce 50% of the grain used in their single malts.
After distillation, the juice matures in a medley of casks, including a majority (84%) in first-fill bourbon barrels complemented evenly by whiskey aged in second-fill Virgin oak (mostly Port Charlotte) and second-fill Bordeaux wine casks. When ready, it’s all masterfully blended and poured into bottles at 50% ABV.
“Our Port Charlotte Islay Barley expressions encapsulate everything a true Islay whisky can and should be, and the latest 2014 vintage is no different,” explains Adam Hannett, Bruichladdich’s Head Distiller.
“Growing on Islay on Scotland’s rugged west coast and unpredictable weather, coupled with grazing wild geese and deer, means a successful harvest is never a given. But using Islay barley enhances our pursuit of flavor for a whisky which evokes a true sense of place.”
As with all of Port Charlotte’s offerings Islay Barley 2014 leads your tongue on a profound, labyrinthine journey of flavors. The instant smoke and iodine punch of the single malt quickly gives way to the toasted sugars and caramel of flan, then finishes with bright citrus and ripe apricot notes.
A relative bargain at $85, Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014 is also the distillery’s first offering packaged without the signature (yet superfluous) outer aluminum steel tin, part of Bruichladdich’s increasing sustainability efforts.
Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.