The message on the flocked piece of paper with a capital "B" surrounded by the words "PROGRESSIVE HEBRIDEAN DISTILLERS" was clear. We had an appointment in Port Charlotte in the evening at 6:00 p. m., when the sun starts to blush on Machir Bay behind the mountains and the bay of Islay is adorned with reflections of fire.
So we headed east towards the village of Bruichladdich. Our disappointment was great when, once on the spot, faced with the turquoise blue barrels flocked with letters of the distillery's name, we found the door closed! Nevertheless, a second message was stapled to the door. He told us to go our way and continue our journey for 2 miles towards the next village: Port Charlotte.
Arriving on the spot still nothing special, the hotel named after the city, had not yet launched its musical evening and the seaside village was very quiet. So we continued on our way until we came across a man standing on the rocks facing the bay.
At his feet two green bottles recognizable among the others! We were close to our goal! Sean was there, always so classy with his tweed suit and white and brown derbies. He looked down on the small sandy beach, 3 seals resting.
He looked at us and knowing that we were French, suggested that we try what the distillery made with barrels of Bordeaux wine. The two distillates he wanted us to test tonight were the well-known (and recognized) PC 10 and the brand new MRC: 01 ! Another beautiful evening in perspective, but a certainly a difficult choice if it had to be made, with these two whiskies announced with the same level of peat (40 PPM) and always made from barley from Inversnesschire.
We started with the reference of the place: the PORT CHARLOTTE PC10.
By pouring a pronounced yellow gold liquid into our glasses, he evoked his breeding. We were in the presence of a 10-year-old distillate, mostly aged in American oak barrels that had already contained bourbon and, to a lesser extent, in French oak barrels that had contained wine. A reference in terms of peated whisky.
Sean suggested that we immerse ourselves in the area in order to achieve an optimal tasting. Looking at the 3 seals resting peacefully, we filled our lungs with sea air before discovering the proposed aromas. Immersed in the glass, our nose was initially filled with smoke but very subtly. As if the sea air had calmed the chimney fire. The smells of burnt peat were sweet. Quite quickly, they gave way to sweeter, caramelized and very pleasant vanilla aromas. After having taken a breath of fresh sea air, our nose discovered smells closer to citrus fruits with a hint of bitterness that brought a certain freshness to this whisky.
In the mouth, this whisky reminded us of a caramelized cake baked on a wood fire. Once the power of its 50° of alcohol had passed, it gave us a smoky taste, a sweetness of sugar and vanilla cream. Keeping 10 seconds in the mouth (as it must be 10 years old -NDLR-), it let appear aromas a little more marine but always wrapped in a cloud of smoke.
As the tasting of this PC10 progressed, there was still a nice smoke in the mouth (it's undeniable but we didn't expect anything else with a Port Charlotte), but also the sweet impression of having tasted a caramel tarte tatin with salted butter. The reference was up to the task.
The BRUICHLADDICH distillery was faithful to its reputation: Softness and subtlety. But what about his experiences? We were about to find out.
While Shean was now pouring a much darker orange-red liquid into our glasses (even announced as terracotta by the brand name-NDLR-), he first proposed to rinse our smoky throat with a large glass of water (of Islay, of course) to welcome this novelty.
The Port Charlotte MRC:01 that Shean proposes to us was a little off the beaten track of the distillery. It was less old than the previous one (7 years old compared to 10 years for the PC10 - logical - and had been designed with a different finish: first of all, it was composed for half of liquid aged in bourbon barrels and for half aged in French wine barrels for 6 years. But once assembled, it had been immersed and preserved (and this is where the novelty was) in Bordeaux grand cru barrels (which the distillery keeps secret but which one could imagine corresponding to the equivalent of a sheep breeding of a very large French family -NDLR-) for a year to shock it with tannins ! The result is a much redder liquid and really different aromas.
Shean warned us. The whisky we were about to drink was 59.2° (it was just coming out of the barrel).
Indeed our nose was invaded by the force of the liquid, but also by strong aromas of red fruits. Things quickly got back on track and it was the smell of smoke, peat and caramelized apple cakes that took over. Nevertheless, each time the nose plunged back into the glass, the same effect occurred with the return of red fruits and then peat! All this brings a certain freshness each time. Nice surprise because we were more used to discover peat first.
As the early evening sea air began to cool down, the whisky we were tasting, with its 59.2° C, immediately warmed our bodies. In the mouth it was the explosion of flavor between peat, sea air, red fruits, burnt green wood, freshness. It is kept in the mouth and reveals sweeter aromas than at the beginning, but also those of the tannins from the Bordeaux casks. The aromas, although many, were intertwined.
This tasting left a sweet, sweet and mellow smoke as is often the case with a Port Charlotte, but to which a slight harshness was added due to the tannins of the Bordeaux casks. We can rest assured here, the final final remains on the grass.
As night was now falling on the bay, the seals had bowed and the music was beginning to be heard from the Port Charlotte Hotel, it was with a warmed mind that we separated with fruit and smoke in our heads.
A choice between the two distillates seems very difficult to us. Purists will say that PC 10 is more like what you expect when you come to a Port Charlotte. Nevertheless, we can consider that the power of red fruits gives a very interesting attraction to the MRC: 01.