Launched Today – Port Charlotte 18 Year Old; Douglas Laing Promotion; Tomatin Marsala and The Epicurean 12 on Taste; Glen Scotia/Campbeltown Whisky Fest; New from Wemyss and Aberfeldy

Hello everyone.

Thought I‘d save this one till 29th February as, obviously, it‘s not that often I get to post a column on that date.

From an e-mail just in today, I learn that Bruichladdich is today releasing its oldest expression yet of Port Charlotte at 18 years old. You will surely already know that Port Charlotte is the distillery‘s heavily peated expression. We are told, „…the spirit has matured in a combination of refill sherry casks (74%) and refill French oak wine casks (26%)“ though it doesn‘t say which French wine region or grape type. A question to be asked! The release also says, „Malted to 40 PPM and bottled at 54.3% AVB, the latest Port Charlotte 18 Year Old is a rare and limited release…Priced at £175.00 Port Charlotte 18 Year Old is available to purchase now at and via select specialist retailers.“ Comment from Head Distiller, Adam Hannett, This is a special moment in my career and it’s a privilege to finally share our Port Charlotte 18 Year Old with the world. This is the oldest expression of Port Charlotte we’ve released to date and it’s a real marker in time. It showcases how far the brand has come since its inception in 2001. From uncertainty and the brink of closure, this spirit was laid down in 2004 while Bruichladdich Distillery found its feet, making its release today even more poignant… It is the truest expression of an Islay whisky, with everything – from the distillation through to maturation, and bottling – done on the island. This is a whisky about place. A spirit which embodies almost two decades of commitment to our island home.” A sample has been requested so I‘m carefully ignoring their tasting notes till after I‘ve tried it myself.

Some good news recently in that Cara Laing, daughter of current Chairman, Fred Laing, was announced as Managing Director of Douglas Laing & Company Ltd. Cara has spent a long time working in the industry earning her stripes in other companies such as Whyte & Mackay (where I first met her) and Morrison Bowmore before joining the family concern. In the years since, she has proven herself a very canny marketeer and, as Director of Whisky, a fine judge of good whiskies, instrumental in expanding the ranges on offer – and often at reasonable prices. I think my favourites from their regional ranges are Scallywag and Timorous Beastie but The Epicurean is a good range too and I‘ve enjoyed a number of expressions. I just happened to have a sample of The Epicurean 12 Year Old which was sent a while back with a sample of something new in that Lowland blended malt range. I didn‘t use it to do a comparison tasting note but include it here as a salute to Cara as I‘ve not covered it before.

The Epicurean 12 Year Old Lowland Blended Malt (46% abv; NCF/NAC):

Appearance: Medium barley gold, lemon highlights.

Nose: Fresh and fruity, quite light; honey and baked apple; quite grassy and lightly floral.

With water, a little warm oak appears; melon; fresh peanuts; hint of citrus juice and candied peel; pears; dough and light sweet spices.

Palate: Light – medium weight; lightly spicy (savoury a bit more than sweet); ripe melon skin; barley and a little bit of oak tannins; silky and elegant (a bit like the moustached charmer on the label!).

Finish: Medium length; refreshing; some barley sweetness.

Ths one would be great to use in cocktails. The Douglas Laing people are not at all precious about using malts in cocktails and have suggested plenty in the past for a number of their range expressions. This 12 Year Old is available in specialists for about £44 – £50 (UK pricing), dependent on where you buy it.

A rather nice invitation dropped into the inbox this week. Glen Scotia is holding a media only event here in Glasgow featuring sessions with their master distiller and master blender, including a number of tasting opportunities. It‘s a lovely malt and I‘m very partial to their Victoriana expression. The event is really a pre-cursor to the Glen Scotia/Campbeltown Malt Whisky Festival on 21st and 22nd May showing some of the sessions to attend in Campbeltown. That‘s just before the Islay one so it makes sense to come to the west of Scotland and attend one festival then travel to Islay for the other. Things to be seen in the Glasgow event and in Campbeltown are:

  • A Glen Scotia Dunnage Warehouse Tasting, with an immersive dram tasting with Glen Scotia’s Master Distiller and Distillery Manager, Iain McAlister, [pictured here] where you will taste four drams handpicked by Iain.
  • Embark on a journey to become a Master Blender and learn from one of the industry’s best, Master Blender, Michael Henry. Discover the artistry behind whisky blending and craft your own unique blend by choosing from three distinctive finishes.
  • There will also be a chance to taste the latest Campbeltown Malts Festival 2024 limited-edition release, a fantastic new expression made to celebrate the festival.

On the subject of Islay there have been issues with the ferry recently where berthing trials were being done at one of the relevant ports and so the summer timetable was delayed and opened for reservations only on Friday 23rd February. Like many others I was champing at the bit as I‘m going over to do my annual Feis Ile dinner again. There was indeed a clamour for reservations but I got mine done quickly first thing in the morning. I always phone Calmac‘s lovely customer service people to make a reservation as I find it quicker than online. One accommodation provider told me one of their Feis clients had phoned that morning to say he wasn‘t coming as the ferries were a problem which is a nonsense. Annoyingly he had an 8 night accommodation booking which is a lot for a provider to lose. The ferry booking systems were working fine so she was going to let him know to try again. I hope that gets sorted out or that they can re-let the room, even if for a few nights at a time over the whole period. There was one other top notch accommodation posting online very recently with a couple of rooms for a few nights so it might still be worth a try if you‘d like to go as the ferry issues (now over) do seem to have put some people off and, though certain sailings are now full (certainly for cars), it may be worth a try. However, don’t turn up at the port without a reservation nor arrive on the island without accommodation already reserved. It’s super-busy during Feis Ile.

Another sample received a while back was in a trio of Tomatins – the Italian Collection. At the time, I wrote about only the Amarone Cask Finish so this week I had a look at Tomatin Marsala Cask Finish (46% abv; NCF and around £70 per bottle). It was distilled in December 2010, moved into marsala cask in February 2021 and bottled in June 2023 before the Collection launch in September 2023.

Appearance: Pale amber with a pink tinge and peach highlights like a pale peach brandy.

Nose: Quite sweet (to be expected); a slight white sugar note. Also a touch of peach juice; a little lime and candied fruits. Quite fresh, fruity and floral with light oak. With water, some drier, more herbal notes; some spiciness and white chocolate – like Milky Bar! A bit of vanilla custard and candied nuts.

Palate: Light – medium mouth feel and quite drying. Vine and candied/glace fruits. Brioche sweetness but finishes dry + slightly peppery and with citrus zest. Some subtle oak and slight char. Hint of nutshells/skins.

Finish: Quite long, zesty and dry with oak and nutshells.

Two offers are being launched today. The first is through the Wemyss Malts Cask Club. It‘s called Of Time & Tide and is a 16 year old Caol Ila, bottled at cask strength, has been carefully aged in refilled ex-bourbon hogshead casks“ and is part of their winter Single Cask Collection. There have been some fascinating bottlings in this collection so signing up for Cask Club will give you access to what‘s on offer.

The second is from Aberfeldy distillery where any order over £60 on this one day „will receive a free dram of a whisky worth the same (or more!) than your order“ and picked by their experts based on your order. That may be a bargain dependent on what‘s chosen for you as it‘s not clear if the dram is worth the same as your order or from a bottle that‘s worth the same. Give it a go. The free dram is 25ml.

That‘s all for now. My interview, set for this week, with a far away distiller has been postponed due to a change in her travel and meeting arrangements following an overseas trip so I hope to get that done soon and still available for March, as intended. Till next time, happy dramming. Slainte,




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