Bruichladdich (pronounced broo-kla-dee or broo-eekla-dee) distillery is a progressive malt-maker from Islay, producing several malts that I wish to try and add to my collection. A late 19th century distillery, it was shut down in 1994 and reopened in 2001 with Jim MacEwan as the Master Distiller (who had previously worked with Bowmore Distillery since he was 15 years old!) I call Bruichladdich progressive because they are fierce champions of non-chill filtration and also of no caramel colouring- conventions that the general malt industry is taking in the opposite direction. Their packaging is also both bold and minimalist, often departing from established industry norms. In another reversal of tradition, their malts released under the name of "Bruichladdich" are unpeated- thoroughly uncharacteristic of Islay! Under the name "Port Charlotte" they release heavily peated malts, and "Octomore" is the brand for their 'super-peated' varieties. The PC11 is their first offering that I've laid my hands on, and I've been eager to do so for a while.
Coming to this malt itself, PC11 is a representation of Bruichladdich's seven-year long and ongoing project. The PC malts is a series of heavily-peated, cask-strength and un-chill filtered malts which is in fact an experiment in taste and ageing. The first PC malt was the PC5- release 7 years ago. The same distillation was matured another year to bring the PC6, and another to bring PC7, and so on till we have now reached- PC11. The numbers in this series represent the malt's age, thus PC11 has been aged for 11 years. It's a brilliant experiment as far as I'm concerned, and I feel my experience incomplete till I've sampled at least a few more of the same series.
And now we come to the review. On the eye, PC11 is a pale and natural barley with yellow light shining through the drink magnificently. On the nose it is phenolic at first, a blazing warning of its peated character. But then come notes of caramel, fruit and moss. As you inhale it deeply, one can detect the warm staleness of a cavern- and I mean this in a very good way! One gets an idea of how heavily peated it is by the fact that when the straight glass is brought close to the mouth, the phenolic-ness burns the eyes! (This is certainly also due to the 59.8% ABV, but I have not experienced a burn to the eye with other high-ABV drinks)
On the palate the malt is intensely medicinal at first- certainly not for the novice. It's rough character may put many people off. There is fire and pepper in the palate, and the malt is harsh and full. With some water it becomes much softer, in no small part because the water dilutes its 59.8% ABV considerably. The nose lends itself to nuts and tangerine, while the smokiness is muted. With water it tastes not unlike Lagavulin- muted smokiness but a full-bodied peat.
In its finish PC11 proves itself to be a fine drink for the winters- full and hot till the end. I can sit back with a single peg (30-60ml) of this malt and enjoy a nice evening. You might notice in the photo that the bottle and box say 'Eorna Na H-Alba' which is Gaelic for "Scottish Barley." Bruichladdich insists that scotch is not scotch till the barley is also Scottish, and I can't find a way to disagree with that!
To conclude, PC11 is a great malt- certainly a bottle I will seek again, especially since I favour the peated smoky expressions of Islay. At the same time, the peat and smoky intensity make me wonder whether I should have taken the attendant's advice and gone for the Octomore instead! (At the time of purchase, I was unaware that Octomore was decidedly more peated than Port Charlotte)
Eye- yellow barley
Nose- Smoke, caramel, moss, fruit
Palate- Medicine (cough syrup?), pepper, spice
Finish- full, harsh and warm