Port Charlotte On Taste; A New Epicurean; Peat Under Threat; DSR Sense; More Malting; Feis Ile Dinner

Hello everyone

Last time I mentioned that a sample of Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014 from Bruichladdich was promised. Well, it arrived and what a great time I had nosing this one. It‘s one of those where you keep finding more. It‘s bottled at 50% alc.vol. and with a peating level of 40ppm. It was matured 84% in first fill bourbon barrel, 8% second fill virgin oak and 8% 2nd fill Bordeaux wine cask.

Appearance: Spring sunshine gold/ ripe barley. Tears are slow to form and run giving a hint of possible oiliness.

Nose: From the bottle there was sweet wood, caramel and vanilla fudge notes. In glass it was firstly plenty of biscuity malted cereal, like Digestive biscuits then some ripe melon fruit. Baked lemon zest and some floral notes. A touch of wax. Peaty and smoky but not overwhelming or in your face. It‘s just beautifully woven through. A slight vinous note and some sultana too. Also something mildly medicinal and fresh air with a scent of fading embers plus a little hint of char. Sweet, warm beer. With water, there are creamy notes and more smoke comes through. Not quite so much vanilla despite the first fill bourbon.

Palate: Slightly oily and mouth-coating. Smoky, rich barley but also char and sweet cereal. A touch of liquorice and quite chewy from wood tannin. Quite drying in the mouth and the maltiness from those Digestive biscuits is also there.

Finish: Rich and smoky with char and tar but with underlying cereal sweetness.

It really is lovely, one of the nicest Port Charlottes I‘ve nosed and tasted. You‘ll find it at around £75 per bottle in the UK or something equivalent overseas dependent on local duties and taxes.

Another recent whisky launch is from Douglas Laing and their delightful Epicurean series. This one is an Amarone Wine Cask Finished Lowland Malt Scotch Whisky. It’s the seventh Single Cask release in their specialist “Wood Series” and bottled at 48% alc vol. (no added colour and no chill-filtration). Maturation is initially in American Oak before being re-racked into a single, hand selected Amarone cask for a second maturation period of two years. We are told, The Amarone cask itself originates from the renowned Italian region of Valpolicella…“. This collection “seeks to demonstrate that flavour is created throughout the Whisky-making process but most significantly during the interaction between the spirit and the wood when it is in the oak cask“. Their brief note says it is, “Full-bodied with waves of dark chocolate, ripe cherries and a sensational spiciness.” You‘ll find it retailing for around £65.00/€73.00 from good specialist retailers.

Not only has the Scottish government taken against whisky (and other alcohol) in view of its potential ban on advertising and promotion in its home market but I did also mention peat some weeks ago, saying I thought it might be some time before we got as far as them turning their laser eye on that. Well, maybe not, as there‘s another paper seeking to ban all peat sales which would potentially affect Scotch whisky and thus some of the world‘s best known brands. The overview I read referred only to peat for horticultural purposes but I haven‘t yet studied the full paper. If it doesn’t do so already, it might merely be a matter of time before that horticultural label is said to include peat sold for malting barley. Global reputations and exports at stake, costs to whisky businesses, likely loss of consumer confidence and messing around with tradition again. What do they expect our industry to use instead of peat and take away all that consumers expect? How long might producers be given to work that out if it ever becomes necessary? This despite the fact that Scotch Whisky accounts for less than 1% of all peat extraction in the UK and they already do it sustainably. I‘m all for reducing carbon outputs and reducing plastic use – and more – to save the planet for following generations and I try to do my own bit but this seems to me another ill-thought out, knee jerk proposal all to make Scotland earlier to net zero before anyone else. Why? There are surely bigger issues to tackle first. The industry already does a lot to maintain clean waters, minimise pollution, use its peat carefully and benefit crops and animals with its waste products for feed and fertiliser but there are steps too far. This is another one. Honestly, I could scream. Anyone wishing to contribute to the consultation can respond at https://lnkd.in/e4hnT9xC but do read the full paper first. You have until 12th May this year.

In a similar vein, I fumed last column about the government‘s deposit return scheme but it seems our candidates to be next First Minister are distancing themselves from that one. It may be they‘ve read the room and are jumping on a bandwagons given the opposition to it or they may actually have seen sense.  However, the registration deadline for businesses is tonight. Even the Westminster government was supposedly saying it‘s a Scottish aberration it‘s willing to block till all UK countries can have a uniform approach, businesses have a chance to sort themselves out and infrastructure is in place to deal with it. However, they have not confirmed that but do seem to have a better grip on the scale of what’s to be done as their own scheme isn’t set to launch until late 2025. Let‘s have a bit more long-term thought and consideration before leaping in with both feet.

On a happier note, Simpson‘s, which does a lot of malting for our industry has been granted permission in principle to build a new maltings and storage facility in Rothes. It will create jobs and malt barley for Speyside distilleries with the cereal grown by farmers in the area. All part of the company‘s efforts to support its B Corp listing. Good news for one of our rural locations.

Lastly, I was asked end of last year to do another whisky dinner at the Port Charlotte Hotel during Feis Ile this year and was sent the menu recently so I can start thinking about whisky pairings. They always need a lot of experimentation and consideration so much for me to look forward to!

This one has been a bit of a rant apart from the joy of Port Charlotte – the whisky and the dinner and a new Epicurean. Looking forward to more positive matters next time. Till then, happy dramming.




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