Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Whiskey Wednesday: Young and Smoky Part 1 -- Bruichladdich PC5
Over the next few weeks we will be examining the new trend toward ever younger, ever peatier Scotches with tastings of three brash, young Islays.
We start with one of the most heralded (and hyped) Scotch releases in recent memory: Bruichladdich PC5, a 5 year old cask strength (63.5% alcohol) release from that most maverick of Islay distilleries.
Like many distilleries, Bruichladdich faced economic trouble in the 1980s and '90s and actually closed its doors in 1995. But unlike other distilleries, the Laddie, as it's known, was reopened under new ownership in 2001. The fiercely independent Jim McEwan was named production director, and the distillery has been a huge success story ever since with a reputation for innovation.
Released in 2006, PC5 is the first bottling of a Scotch distilled under the new ownership. PC stands for Port Charlotte, a long-shuttered Islay distillery which the new bottling claims as its model.
When PC5 was released in 2006, it sold like hotcakes across the UK and Europe. The bold, highly peated five year old flew in the face of Bruichladdich's traditional flavor profile of low-smoke, non-peated malts.
Now, more than a year after its European release, a small number of bottles have made their way to the US. It is available at Wine & Liquor Depot in Van Nuys and Wine House in West LA for $120...quite an investment for a 5 year old Scotch. Let's see if it lives up to the hype.
PC5 gives the people what they want..it comes out fighting with a massive peat aroma. The taste is a balance of strong smoke and sweetness. There is some interesting flavor buried under all that smoke including the traditional Islay seaweed as well as some fruit and vanilla. While it's cask strength, it holds its alcohol well and I liked it both neat and with a bit of water.
With this grand smoker, Bruichladdich joins the pantheon of heavily smoked Islays, previously occupied by the charred triumvirate of Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg. If you like the heavy peat smoke, you will love this whiskey.
The real question for PC5, however, is whether it's worth the steep price tag. To that question, I would have to respond in the negative. I liked it quite a bit, but it really should be priced in the $50-70 range. Remember, for $120, you could buy two bottles of 16 year old Lagavulin, which is more refined and complex, not to mention any number of other good, smoky Islays with change to spare.
While I applaud Bruichladdich for making a good product, I am honestly disturbed by the overblown prices it is promoting. If this is the 5 year old, what are they going to charge for PC10? And given its success, I wouldn't be surprised if other distilleries jack up their prices in response. Does PC really stand for Plenty of Cash?
Next Wednesday: A Young Laphroaig