Port Charlotte 2003 Islay Sponge / 2007 Rest & Be Thankful

Port Charlotte 2003 Islay Sponge / 2007 Rest & Be Thankful

Port Charlotte is such a reliable name, right? Always unsurprisingly good. Remember this style of distillate was first produced in 2001, the year after the distillery was taken over by Murray McDavid. It’s not often though that we find batches breaking the 20 year old barrier, but so far they’ve been excellent. Check the 2001 by Vintage Bottlers for instance.

Today we’re having a Port Charlotte 2003 bottled by Decadent Drinks in their Islay Sponge series. As a sparring partner we’ve found a recent bottling in the Rest & Be Thankful series.


Port Charlotte 20 yo 2003 – Islay Sponge Part IV (56,5%, Decadent Drinks 2023, refill hogshead, 241 btl.)

Nose: brilliant really. Port Charlotte like this reminds me of Brora from the 1970s. Those hints of goat stables and horse dung, muddy notes, with sweet soot, cigar smoke and salty kippers. Then there’s also wulong tea, old walnuts and dried hay. Lemon or maybe clementine in the background. Tobacco, light menthol and smoked herbs for sure. It is so expressive but also such a gentleman.

Mouth: deeply sooty again. Total bonfire smoke with hints of cough syrup, anchovies and lapsang tea. More tobacco and walnuts. Then this brighter hint of clementine again, smoked lemons, a little stewed fruit and toffee sweetness. Even a floral edge. A famous Belgian butcher makes Dolce Zero, dried Simmental rubbed with Brazilian coffee and hazelnut. That too. It returns nicely to dry herbal cordials and this highly coastal combination of smoke and salt.

Finish: very long, dark and sooty, with hints of chocolate, tobacco, zingy lemon and walnuts.

Wonderful stuff, combining elements of old Ardbeg with old Brora. Especially this style of farminess is something that is impossible to get, unless in auctions. Sold out from Decadent Drinks but still available from The Whisky Exchange, Tyndrum Whisky or Royal Mile Whiskies among others. I know Port Charlotte is getting expensive, but this is a future classic. Warmly recommended.


I know it’s not a gift to appear after such a whisky, but since we’re usually having whisky in order of ABV… here’s a 2007 from Rest & Be Thankful.


Port Charlotte 15 yo 2007 (57,7%, Rest & Be Thankful 2023, sherry butt finish #1585, 864 btl.)

Port Charlotte 15 Years 2007 - Rest & Be Thankful Nose: more ashy smoke. Cold barbecue, sunflower oil, as well as hints of metal polish and mentholated smoke. Then muddy boots, seashells, sour berries and lemons. Hints of condensed milk make a brief appearance, as well as flamed rosemary and floral touches. It’s not farmy in any way and the sherry is very subtle, with only mild whiffs of dried fruits.

Mouth: much more intense than the nose suggested. Lots of sharp brine, white pepper and smoked fish, along with a tart fruitiness that is more sherried now. An almost heady peatiness. Almonds and walnuts appear, as well as some dark chocolate and aniseed in the end.

Finish: long and clean, with woody spice, smoked almonds and briney notes.

Still an impressive distillate, but the contrasts in style are pretty big nonetheless. Here we’re getting sharp smoke and refreshing maritime notes, clearly made today, whereas the 2003 was sooty and farmy, seemingly from a different era. Almost exclusively distributed in Germany by Kirsch, if I’m not mistaken. Score: 88/100