Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Does the Barley make a difference?

Bit of a sad one this a it sees me finally finishing off #HeelSlaying my bottle of Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte Islay Barley. This has been a fantastic dram, easily in my top 5 of the year (more of that in December!) and it's a real shame to see it disappear.

The evening was made slightly better as I turned it into a bit of a side by side comparison with a drample of the Scottish Barley version I'd swapped with a friend Paul.

Scottish v Islay

So for the one person out there who doesn't know Bruichladdich is an Islay distillery founded in 1881 but in it's new 'Progressive Hebridean Distillers' guise since 2000. They create three different ranges of malt - Bruichladdich (unpeated), Port Charlotte (Heavily Peated) and Octomore (Ultra Heavily Peated). Bruichladdich make big claims about terroir a concept that encompasses the influence and inter-action of soil, sub-soil, exposure, orientation, climate and micro-climate on the growing of a their barley. Try as they might they aren't able to source all of their barley requirements from Islay but do ensure that it all comes from Scotland, unlike lots of other distilleries! So my question in this blog is "Does the Barley make a difference?" I'm trying the last of my Islay Barley (IB) version of heavily peated Port Charlotte against a sample of the Scottish Barley (SB).

Whisky : Port Charlotte Islay Barley (Peated to 40 ppm)
Characteristics : 700ml, 50% ABV.
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Smoke, smoke and just a little more smoke - but very maritime along with it, hints of smoked kippers.
Palate : The 50% ABV hits you straight away - slightly oily, lots of spice on the tongue, some sweetness and a background of dry biscuit.
Finish : A long smokey finish, slightly drying and nutty.
Overall : In the top 5 of my dram tastings this year - a definite favourite and I'm really sad to see it go - hopefully anew version will come along soon!

It doesn't really come out in the photo, but half way through each dram the IB is nearly transparent, the SB still holds a little colour.

Scottish v Islay
Whisky : Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (Peated to 40 ppm)
Characteristics : 700ml, 50% ABV.
Colour : Yellow Gold (just a shade darker than the IB)
Nose : Smoke and more smoke - not quite the same as the IB and seems to lack the maritime element - there is citrus instead and some nuttiness.
Palate : Very, very smooth - completely different from the IB - there isn't anywhere near the same amount of spice - it's more buttery with a chewy feel?
Finish : Not as drying on the finish, equally as long but doesn't seem to have the same amount of smoke. There is more spice on the finish that the IB.
Overall : A beautiful dram, I wish I'd had more than a sample to be able to spend time with as I'm sure this would have been up there in my ratings.

Thoughts : I'm sure there are loads of other factors which could go into making these drams taste different other than the barley - the casks they were matured in, the water used to distil and dilute them etc but lets for the sake of this argument ignore them and say it's all down to the barley - they are different - quite remarkably so!