People tend to have strong opinions about smoky whisky—they either really love it or steer clear. But this new Bruichladdich single malt is a heavily peated dram that will appeal even to those who think they don’t like campfire-level whisky.
It’s right there in the name: the Port Charlotte Heavily Peated lineup from Bruichladdich consists of some seriously smoky whisky, even by Islay standards (the region of Scotland known for its peaty single malts). The 10-year-old expression is the foundation of this series, but there’s also the more experimental Cask Exploration lineup. The newest entry is called SC:01 2012, which requires some explaining. This limited release was made from 100 percent Islay grown barley, the first time this has been done in this particular whisky series. It’s a 2012 vintage that was aged for nine years, and has a phenol level of 40 PPM—this is a measurement of the level of peat in the barley, and that number equals very smoky whisky, although nowhere close to the levels of the Bruichladdich Octomore series.
The maturation process for SC:01 2012 is complex, and that’s likely what makes this a smoke bomb even those who generally avoid that style of whisky will enjoy. There were three different parcels of liquid that were blended together for this release: whisky aged in sherry butts that was re-casked into Sauternes wine casks, whisky aged in second-fill American whiskey barrels that was re-casked into second-fill Sauternes casks, and whisky aged in first and second-fill American whiskey barrels that was re-casked into first-fill Sauternes casks. The key thread here are those Sauternes casks, a sweet wine from the eponymous region of France.
The resulting whisky is excellent, opening with notes of sweet vanilla, orange and a whiff of smoke on the nose that is almost subtle considering the PPM. The palate is full of cherry, caramel, spice, earthy leather, chocolate and, of course, smoke. There’s a hit of fresh raspberry in there as well, which is a pleasant surprise. Bruichladdich is all in on the concept of terroir, and that surely plays a part here. But the key step in the process seems to be the carefully thought out maturation process, in which nothing is left to chance. So even if you avoid bottles of Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavulin like the plague, this new Bruichladdich whisky might just win you over.