"For God's sake bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country."
– Reginald Maudling
Located in the heart of the town of Wick, the most northerly distillery in Scotland, Old Pulteney lays just south of the harbor. In the days of the British Empire Wick was considered the herring capital of the world. And it was James Henderson who took up the task of quenching the thirst of the numerous workmen and fishermen, founding the Old Pulteney Distillery in 1826. Receiving the added “Old” to Pulteney not long after it was established, it was said that the whisky aged unusually quick, making it taste “old” after only a short time in the cask. Yet, as the story goes for many of these small towns, in the 1920s a devastating ban on alcohol from 1922 and 1939 and high unemployment rendered this family owned business almost extinct. After exchanging hands with DCL, John Dewer & Sons, and Hiram Walker, Old Pulteney finally came to its current resting place with Inver house.
Up until today Old Pulteney has been primarily used in blends, Ballantine’s being one of its largest recipients, and as such it is one of the most undervalued single malts in Scotland. Inverhouse has been consistently pushing its image as a acceptable single malt, and it is dong a fantastic job at that. Matured in ex-bourbon cask, it is stated on the bottle that Old Pulteney 12 is to represent a "genuine maritime malt." I think they succeed here.
Old Pulteney 12 Year Scotch Whisky Review:
Price: Around $35 - $40 range for a 750ml bottle.
Packaging/Labeling: The bottle is simple, imitating a pot still at the neck, and it is delivered via a practical box. Nothing to complain about.
Alcoholic Content: 43% abv, 86 proof. Note that this is a higher proof than that of bottles sold in Scotland. Ralfy Mitchell told me that it was to attract the US consumers. Lucky me I guess, but I wish they would get the picture and just bottle them all at a higher proof.
Nose: The nose is just terrific. Complex and refined with floral and fruit. The malt is completely in check. A very light peat note, though not to be classified as smoky. Bright honey, green apple, fresh pineapple and dense pear, all lightly sprinkled with sea salt. There is some sour apple candy hiding in the back.
Palate: With a bit of water this whisky is firmly grounded. You take a sip and nothing runs away on you. There is syrupy sweet and sour lemon on the mid-palette, traveling all the way back on the tongue. This opens up into a light spice. Green and fresh notes all around, yet never feeling young. Just like on the nose apples and pears sprinkled with the sea salt and with a bit of creamy chocolate on the sidelines.
Conclusion: This is a humdinger of a whisky which I am proud to give high marks! With it being in relative obscurity, this is definitely one people need to grab now before the experts get their hands on it and make it fashionable. Highly recommended.