An X-Ray Look At The Port Charlotte 10

The below is sponsored content. It was 100% created by me, but sponsored by Bruichladdich.

From distillate to aging to the people to the bottling, this is a product of Islay. The grain may come from the Scottish mainland, the barrels from around the world, the peat from the Highlands, but the heart of this dram beats Islay. It was crafted, matured and put together by the dedicated people who live on the island and give it its profile, its soul. And that’s why they’re so open about the process and what’s in it, regardless of ingredient origins… it’s an Islay whisky.

Port Charlotte 10 Years Review

Transparency about what’s in a bottle of whisky is important to Bruichladdich. This is why you can go to their site, enter the bottle code on any bottle of Classic Laddie and see every bit of information they can legally give out. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) blocks them from releasing all but the youngest age of the whisky in their bottle, but outside of that, it’s all there – and surprisingly complicated. The Port Charlotte 10, things are a bit simpler since, at its core, it’s created from just two types of casks: “American Whiskey Casks” (ex-Bourbon) and “French Wine” casks.

Recently I reviewed the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 and that review is the root of this deeper dive. My source of truth for flavor profiles and the information in it will be expanded here as we dissect, and play with, this fantastic whisky.

Breaking Down Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10

Region: Islay, Scotland
Distiller: Bruichladdich
Mash Bill: 100% Malted Barley
Cask: 1st Fill ex-Bourbon (65%), 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon (10%), 2nd Fill ex-French Wine (25%)
Age: 10 Years
ABV: 50%
Non-Chill Filtered | Natural Color
PPM: 40

When it comes to the flavor of all peated Bruichladdich it’s important to note where the peat used to smoke the barley comes from: the Scottish Highlands – not Islay. This is what gives all their peated whiskeys more of a BBQ smoke, like what you get in Ardmore, VS the more plasticy/band-aid smoke found in whiskies like Bowmore.

Port Charlotte 10 Years X-Ray

Be it the Octomore 10 years or the Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2012, they all use Highland peat. Though once you get past the smoke, that’s where you’ll find an array of notes ranging from lightly floral and fruity to darkly sweet and earthy, and these… these are Islay. These stem from the barley, fermentation, distillation, and, most importantly, the casks used.

If you have crap fermentation and bad distilling practices the best grain in the world and the best barrels in the world can’t save your whisky. Lucky for us, Jim McEwan and team figured out the fermentation and distillation long ago. The barley question has also been figured out and the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 is 100% Scottish grown and comes from the Invernesshire region.

I’ve never tasted Bruichladdich’s new make, so I can’t speak to that directly, but I’m assuming it’s good since they’re able to put out fantastic tasting whiskies at low ages. You can’t do that with mediocre new make. I’d point to examples like Kilchoman, Penderyn and Paul John. All three have produced stellar whisky at a young age and whose new make I’ve been able to taste and they’re delicious.

Moving through the layers of flavor source we hit what’s possibly the single biggest source of flavor: the casks. Depending on who you talk to they’ll quote ranges from 60-80% of the ultimate flavor comes from the cask. Me, I think it’s far more complicated than some cookie-cutter answer can give and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question.

The younger the whisky is, the less time the cask has to influence the overall whisky. Also, the more times a cask has been used, the less flavor it has to impart, letting the spirit show through more, especially if it’s a more “inert” cask like ex-Bourbon VS something more heavily flavorful like Sherry or wine. But even within those realms there’s more to unpack.

Port Charlotte 10 Years-2

A 1st Fill ex-Bourbon cask means it’s the first time Scotch has been in the cask, but the second time it’s been used – the bourbon being first. 2nd Fill means the second time Scotch has been in it and so on. There’s even more to unpack there but, generally speaking, a 2nd Fill cask imparts less flavor than a 1st Fill cask and, inversely, a 2nd Fill cask allows more of the spirit to show through.

The cask breakdown for the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 is 65% 1st Fill ex-Bourbon, 10% 2nd Fill ex-Bourbon and 25% 2nd Fill ex-French Wine. Using the notes in my Port Charlotte 10 Years Review I’m going to breakout where I think the flavor and aroma sources come from. This is my opinion, and I’m happy to read yours in the comments.

1st Fill ex-Bourbon
NOSE: Honey candy, vanilla taffy, graham cracker
PALATE: Orchard fruit, honey, dried apples.
FINISH: Hay-like malt.

2nd Fill ex-Bourbon
NOSE: Lemon, banana chips, herbal notes.
PALATE: Roasty malt, sweet lemon peel, herbal notes.
FINISH: Hay-like malt.

2nd Fill ex-French Wine
NOSE: Oat cookies (and some of the fruit notes)
PALATE: Oat cookies (and some of the fruit notes)
FINISH: Oat cookies.

NOSE: Smoke, olive oil.
PALATE: Saltwater taffy, iodine.
FINISH: Salted butter, smoke.

This was a fun puzzle to think about, but obviously, we don’t taste in silos like this. Instead, we experience it as a whole and my “in a nutshell” synopsis would be this. If the idea of having a fantastic, multi-course, meal next to a bonfire on a beach sounds good to you, then you might like the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10.

Thinking about where the flavors and aromas come from in the whisky was the end of the assignment from Bruichladdich, but as I kept thinking deeper about these flavors and aromas I started thinking about how this might get used in a cocktail and also, about food. So I started experimenting and wanted to share the results with you.


Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 in a Cocktail

When I think of Bruichladdich cocktails I think of their amazing Botanist gin and that immediately leads me to think of a Negroni which, at its core, is equal parts Gin, Amaro and Vermouth. While just subbing the gin for the Scotch works well, I wanted to really highlight the PC10 and so I made 2 versions at different levels and gave them a taste test.

Version 1
1 1/2 oz PC 10
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Vermouth

Version 2
2oz PC 10
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Vermouth

PC 10 Cocktail

The Vermouth I used was a “perfect” blend of 50% dry vermouth and 50% red vermouth. Tasting the two versions side-by-side I was impressed by both and found the Campari and Vermouth both enhanced, more than they distracted from, the spirit. However, a victor had to emerge and that victor was Version 2. It was a bit more balanced and kept the PC 10 more front-and-center while also adding a complex herbal and candy sweetness from the Campari and Vermouth.

PC 10 Scotch “Negroni” Recipe

2 oz Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Vermouth


Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 and Food

Peated Scotch and oysters are a combo made in heaven. Put a few drops of any Islay Scotch on an oyster and the combination of meaty, briny, smoky, minerally profiles is heavenly. It’s one of my favorite bites in the world. This thought train is what led me to think about something a little less substantial… like caviar.

PC 10 Caviar

I did a tasting with The Caviar Company recently and afterward, there were three caviars leftover and thinking of the oysters, which I’ve been craving lately, I decided to give it a go. I’m happy to say that while the PC 10 complimented all three of the caviars on the table it created a truly stunning combination with the White Sturgeon caviar.

The rich creamy texture and light brine was the perfect complement to the smoky fruity essence of the PC 10. On the more substantial side, it’s also a great grill companion to a well-marbled ribeye. This whisky can do just about anything. Except make a salad dressing, though maybe…

Port Charlotte 10 Years Back Label


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