Port Charlotte single malt is just what I needed ... a bold, new contender for the "my favourite whisky" crown.
It's not often that a serious new challenger for the world's best steps into the limelight, but that is what has just happened in my imaginary whisky championships.
For years well-credentialed contenders have thrown down a challenge to my world champ - Lagavulin 16-year-old - only to be swept aside by the reigning No.1's brilliant, heavily peated, deeply complex Islay masterpiece. Sure they were brilliant, bright, tasty and memorable in their own way, and great drinking for this flawed whisky enthusiast (I almost used the word connoisseur but that just isn't me) in my quest to taste as many fine drams as possible. But, despite throwing plenty of punches, these contenders hardly laid a glove on the Muhammad Ali of whisky, which in my mind (like Ali bragged of himself) floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.
Then, suddenly out of nowhere (well actually from the pantry shelf where I keep my whisky) there appears Port Charlotte 10-year-old Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt ... and this young contender really means business.
Production of the Port Charlotte single malt only began at the Bruichladdich distillery on Scotland's famous whisky island, Islay, earlier this century, although it was created to give a nod to the famed whisky made at Port Charlotte on Islay from 1829 to the early 20th Century.
The marketing makes no bones about it being the new kid on the block, dubbing it "very modern and very sexy".
Well, I'm not sure about modern and sexy - not being an expert in either of those areas unfortunately - but it is certainly a great whisky. And, if not The Greatest, it sure as hell goes close.
This is how the experts at the Master of Malt website describe this stunning whisky:
"Nose: Salted caramel brownie, flamed orange peel, a hearty whack of seaweed. Palate: Oaky smoke and salty sea air, paired with sweeter notes of custard cream biscuits and white grape. Finish: Ginger snaps, rye toast, drying peat smokiness."
Obviously the chaps at Master of Malt have a thing for biscuits. I like them too, but my favourites are Arnott's Lemon Crisp Biscuits and Arnott's Tim Tams and Port Charlotte whisky tastes nothing like them!
I made a few short notes on my iPhone as I took my first taste of Port Charlotte. Here they are: "Strong nose with hints of cloves and dried fruit. Taste: Very rich, hmm, in fact brilliant. Peaty, salty, earthy with, maybe blueberries. A deep warming sensation makes it a whole of mouth/throat experience".
It's at this stage I should make a small confession: Moments before my first taste I had consumed a "popping candy Freddo" chocolate bar, a leftover treat initially intended for my teacher wife's students who had returned, finally, from Covid exile. But, several more drams since, have convinced me that the Freddo bar had no influence on my whisky senses.
This is definitely a bloody excellent whisky that has a delicious complexity with an awe-inspiring peaty finish.
So, where does that leave us? Well, I reckon Lagavulin 16-year-old is the winner on points in a split decision and therefore retains the world championship belt. But, Port Charlotte, with its amazing peaty dram, is definitely demanding a rematch. Who knows, the judge (that's me) might see it differently next time around.