Port Charlotte single malts proudly carry the name of the Islay village that clings to the shore of Loch Indaal two miles south of Bruichladdich. The original Lochindaal Distillery was built at the same time as the rest of the village, in 1829, and was to operate for exactly 100 years before closure in 1929 – an early victim of the stock market crash in the USA. Alfred Barnard, perhaps the most respected whisky writer in history, visited it around 1885 – and described it, rather rudely, as ‘old-fashioned’! He was probably right – certainly in comparison with the uber-modern brand-new hi-tech distillery just up the road at Bruichladdich – which had been built just four years before his visit.
What we are sure of is that the original Lochindaal Distillery was producing a heavily peated spirit – because Barnard tells us so saying: “Peat only is used in drying the malt, fired in open chauffeurs.” His testimony is backed up by old photographs of the distillery showing the immense peat stacks that would have been required to maintain an annual production of some 127,068 bulk gallons – which Barnard records as the output in 1884/5.
So we know that Lochindaal Distillery was old fashioned and we can surmise another reason for its demise – the lack of a pier in the village. This meant that all the freight in and out had to either land at Bruichladdich and be hauled to Port Charlotte by horse and cart, or it had to be offloaded from puffers that either ran up the beach or stood off to be unloaded into flit boats. All Islay distilleries were designed to be supplied with barley and casks from the sea – and the lack of a pier would have been a major drawback.
Even in the 19th century, the vast majority of malting barley for Islay’s distilleries had to be imported from the Scottish mainland and Ireland – any that was grown on Islay would have simply supplemented these imports. So our Port Charlotte Islay Barley really is the first heavily peated single malt whisky to be produced from 100% Islay-grown barley in the history of the island.