Port Charlotte – The Peat Project

The Port Charlotte brand is part of the Bruichladdich distillery’s family of single malts. I’m not yet overly familiar with the Bruichladdich lineup, but I do know they are Islay whiskies and I assume they’re a bit different from their brethren, since they’ve chosen to use a completely different branding for their more peated expressions… my curiosity was peaked by the canister statement, Port Charlotte: The Heavily Peated Bruichladdich? To that point, I had thought that all Islays were big, snarling peat monsters!

I don’t usually consider presentation all that much but I have to admit I was also partially drawn to this particular whisky by the cool factor of Port Charlotte’s distinct packaging – its bold, modern looking tin definitely sets it apart from most other scotch presentations. The Peat Project is available in my market for about $55 and is bottled at 46% abv.

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To the Eye
The first thing that strikes me about The Peat Project is how unusually pale it is. I’m not sure if this is evidence of a young whisky that’s spent very little time in the cask, or if it speaks to the degree of artificial colouring used in other brands. This malt is a very pale straw colour and a swirl of the glass reveals very skinny legs. As with the packaging, this leaves me thinking that this dram will at least be different, if not special.

In the Nose
Okay, now I’m suspecting different but not special. The Peat Project has a very straightforward nose – I get a grassy peat aroma along with a little bit of ripe pears. As the glass decants, I can also sense a little bit of smoke and some sweet maltiness along with a hint of iodine. It’s balanced but, for me, a little subdued and lacking complexity.

On the Tongue
Again, pretty simple… one-dimensional, actually. I can taste oak, which is a little surprising again considering how pale the colouring is. There’s definitely peat as well, but less than I expected from a whisky that proclaims to be “heavily peated”. At first, I taste a pleasant spiciness but it rapidly turns into a bitter astringency. This bitterness catches me a little off guard because I didn’t pick it up in the aroma. The finish is very short, leaving me only with that bitterness lingering.

Final Thoughts
The first few times I sampled this whisky, I thought that I really liked it. Even now, there are moments when I think it’s actually pretty good. There are elements to The Peat Project that appeal to me – I like that it seems to be completely naturally coloured and I do appreciate how its peatiness does not overwhelm the whisky. Unfortunately that bitter exit is just too dominant for my taste, especially considering that there aren’t a great deal of other flavours to balance it out. I do wonder if this malt might be something more impressive if the edges were knocked off by a longer maturation but, as it is, I think I’ll take a pass on buying another bottle.

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