Friday 12 October 2018

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte range re-launch party in Singapore (Tasted #396 - 399)

Bruichladdich is a distillery I've liked for a long time, but it's also a distillery I've respected for a long time. That's not to say I don't respect other distilleries, but Bruichladdich's whisky has just always struck me as incredibly honest whisky. It doesn't hide behind caramel colouring, or chill-filtration. It's bottled at (at least) 50%. As a distillery, Bruichladdich are also incredibly transparent.

...and they make incredibly good and varied whisky - from the standard "Laddie" to the peated Port Charlotte, to the super-peated Octomore and the fun stuff like Black Art and Micro Provenance ranges.

All of which made it pretty easy to say yes when Rémy Cointreau contacted me recently, asking if I wanted to join them in Singapore for the (re)launch of the Port Charlotte range. Fast forward 6 weeks, and I find myself, on a surprisingly mild Singapore night, standing in the middle of an industrial space...

The invitation listed the venue as "Cargo39", which I assumed was some cool new bar in a popular part of Singapore, but no, it turns out "Cargo39" is an actual cargo dock / shipping yard (which frankly is so much cooler).

The #WeAreIslay balloon made it clear I was in the right area, and after a few minutes of mindlessly wandering around an empty loading dock, I found my way to the venue.

(Turns out, Cargo39 is in Tanjong Pagar Distripark - a popular art / performance / venue / F&B space, utilising converted warehouse space. Not dissimilar to some of the warehouses around HK's Wong Chuk Hang.)

One look at the voucher provided on arrival suggested guests were in for a good night, filled with all the good things in life...

First though, I headed to the G&T Station (Bruichladdich make a great gin, y'see) where Citizen Farm had set up a botanical station and were talking guests through different mints, herbs and leaves to garnish their gin & tonics (the locally-grown Apple Mint suited the Botanist's 22 botanicals very well).

"Local" was to be a theme for the night - with stations set up around the room serving delicious goods from local providors - cheese (from The Cheese Ark), chocolate (from DemoChoco), burgers and oysters (from Jam & Co) and even a taste of home, with beer / boilermakers by Young Master Ales.

Of course, we were all there for whisky, and there was no disappointment on that front, with the "Rare Dram" bar front and centre serving all manner of Bruichladdichs from the standard Laddie right up to Octomore OBA, and the full "Rare Cask" series (not to mention a number of rare distillery-only releases).

Everyone was allowed one free Rare Dram (more if they were lucky...) and the prices for others were pretty reasonable - Bere Barley 2008 for $10SGD, Black Art 5.1 for $30SGD, with the rarest drams (Octomore OBA, Rare Cask series and Yellow Submarine) at $50SGD.

Before long a few familiar faces showed up - namely good whisky mates Andrew (@whiskyhobo) and Christopher (@kanpaikev) from Indonesia Whisky Research Society (soon to be hosting Indonesia's first Whisky Live), and Singapore's Loh Chin Hui aka @whisky uncle. After sharing a dram or two of the distillery-only "The Laddie" Valinch 32, it was time to start the official tasting.

Brand Ambassador Chloe Wood welcomed guests, explaining that we'd be tasting four Port Charlotte drams, with a guided tasting led by none other than Bruichladdich Head Distiller Adam Hannett, video conferenced in all the way from Islay. This was impressive for two reasons - 1) Islay Internet is said to be notoriously dodgy; and 2) Adam couldn't hear anything happening in Singapore, yet managed to almost time his interjection after each dram perfectly.

I managed to spend a good amount of time with each dram, appreciating both the similarities and differences between the range...

Port Charlotte 10 (50% ABV, 10 Years Old, Islay, Scotland, £50 (AU and HK pricing TBC))
Containing only Scottish Barley, and peated to 40ppm. Matured in a combination of 1st fill ex-Bourbon, 2nd fill ex-Bourbon and 2nd fill ex-French wine casks.
Colour: Golden straw
Nose: Sweet vanilla smoke initially, over time, tangy BBQ sauce and vanilla cream pie. A strange combination...that works very well.
Palate: BBQ-charred lemon wedges, then some big berry notes coming through - strawberry and raspberries. Plenty of salt-air peat - balanced well with the fruitier notes.
Finish: Follows the palate - long sweet lemon citrus smoke.
Rating (on Martin's very non-scientific scale): 91/100. I sat on this for a while and it got better and better. An impressive dram, especially considering the price.

Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2011 (50% ABV,  6-7 Years Old, Islay, Scotland, £60 (AU and HK pricing TBC))
Showcasing truly local barley. 15 years ago no-one was growing Barley on Islay, now there are 18 farms!
Colour: Yellow gold.
Nose: Lots of vanilla and some citrus, and then some peach. Some slightly plastic notes that aren't offputting, but do differentiate this from the PC10. Spirit is more noticeable.
Palate: Meatier, more spirity than the 10. Lots of lemon zest and orange peel. More spritely and youthful than the 10. It'd be very interesting to try this at 10 years old.
Finish: Longer and hotter than the 10, with residual lemon zest smoke.
Rating (on Martin's very non-scientific scale): 88/100.

Port Charlotte MRC:01 2010 (59.2% ABV,  7-8 Years Old, Islay, Scotland, Pricing TBC)
75% ex-Bourbon, 25% ex-wine cask. Finished for 1 year in French red wine casks.
Colour: Golden orange
Nose: Well this is different! Vegemite. Rye bread. Some slight hints of matchheads. Big, meaty. Beefstock.
Palate: More match heads / sulphur notes (not offputting). A lot more fruit starts to show - red berries mostly.
Finish: Long, sweet smoke and oak tannins at the very end.
Rating (on Martin's very non-scientific scale): 87/100.

Port Charlotte MC:01 2009 (56.3% ABV,  8-9 Years Old, Islay, Scotland, Pricing TBC)
Finished in ex-Marsala casks for 18 months. Not yet bottled at the time of tasting, but intended to replace the current Global Travel Retail Cognac-finished expression.
Colour: Bright orange gold.
Nose: Lovely. Dry rub, paprika, very malty. Some berry notes start to show afer time.
Palate: Huge, rich oily mouth feel. Cherry cream pie. First fruit, then a big whack of sweet smoke.
Finish: Long, slightly tannic but at the very end, sweet Crème brûlée.
Rating (on Martin's very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

With the tasting over (and Adam no doubt finally able to enjoy his lunch), a few of us wandered over to check out the games on offer, including "Speak like a Scot", "Ring Toss" and "Blind Tasting". With rare drams on offer for winners, and Bruichladdich keyrings on offer for everyone else, everyone was a winner really.

Finishing the night with a dram of 1984/32 from the Rare Cask Series, then an Octomore OBA and the latest 1991 Yellow Submarine was a pretty incredible way to cap off what was, in all honesty, one of the most fun and well-run whisky parties I'd attended in ages.

The new range continues everything I like about Bruichladdich, and shows they're not afraid to go a little bit left-field either (just look at the new bottle design). A humungous thanks must go to Rémy Cointreau and Bruichladdich, who not only invited me to the event, but provided flights and accommodation too.


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