KWM 2023 Whisky Calendar Blog Day 21 - Old Pulteney 15 Year
Posted on December 21, 2023
For a long time, one of the factoids that you could bring up about Old Pulteney was that it was made at the most northern distillery on the mainland of Scotland. That title was taken from it back in January of 2013 when Wolfburn Distillery began producing spirit. Pulteney Distillery resides in the town of Wick, right on the coast of the Western Highlands, just south of the Orkney Islands. Its nearest neighbours include the aforementioned Wolfburn, which is around a 40-minute drive to the north and west in Thurso. Beyond that and further north on the Orkney Islands itself - Highland Park Distillery and Scapa Distillery. Clynelish Distillery is a one-hour drive south along the A9 and the Eastern Coast of Scotland.
Pulteney Distillery was founded in 1826, and other than a 21-year closure from 1930 to 1951 it has spent most of its history in production. It is owned by Inverhouse Distillers/International Beverage Holdings, which also owns the two other Highland distilleries: Knockdhu (bottled under the name anCnoc) and Balblair. The company also owns Speyburn Distillery, which we visited back on Day 17, and Balmenach within the Speyside region.
Dubbed on the label as "The Maritime Malt", Old Pultney whisky typically shows a good amount of coastal influence but is unpeated. For me, this combination makes it a fun whisky to introduce to people who say they want a "Speyside Malt". Getting that salty, seaside experience in a whisky without any of that dirty peat can be an epiphany to some people. It can be easy to assume that you can't make a coastal whisky without it being smoky at the same time if you are still new to Scotch Whisky and not used to the different styles available. To me, the saltiness of Old Pulteney malts is a welcome bit of nuance that helps bring out the flavours in its lighter spirit.
The official bottlings of Old Pulteney all feature a unique bottle shape, which pays homage to the shape of the stills the distillery uses. The bottle shape possibly helps it stand out on crowded whisky shelves and makes it easily recognizable to consumers. This, and the fact that the whisky tends to be pretty darn good and offers a bit of salinity, are likely the reasons for Old Pulteney being the best-selling Single Malt Scotch for Inverhouse. This is a bit surprising when you consider Pulteney is the smallest in the company’s Scottish distillery portfolio by alcohol production volume.
The Old Pulteney core range of Single Malts includes this 12 Year Old that we will be tasting today as well as a 15 Year, 18 Year and 25 Year old plus the Huddart, which is finished in ex-Islay whisky casks to give it a touch of smoke and peat.
The Old Pulteney 15 Year is the bottle in the core range that we will be sampling today. This 15 Year Old Single Malt starts its life maturing in mostly 2nd fill ex-Bourbon casks before undergoing further aging in fresher 1st fill Spanish ex-Oloroso Sherry casks. The result is bottled at 46%.
Let’s taste it, shall we?
Old Pulteney 15 Year Old - 46%
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Salted toffee, Butter Ripple Schnapps, applesauce, peaches and cream, pumpkin pie, plus a touch of toasted oak and ocean waves.
Palate: More salted toffee, plus graham crackers, milk chocolate, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, apple crumble, tinned peaches in syrup, basil and oregano spices, and Ovaltine.
Finish: Sweet and salty on the way down with lingering spice notes.
Comment: If you want coastal notes without peat and seaweed, Old Pulteney is always a good one to go with. The 15 Year is a solid step up from the 12 Year thanks to the extra years in cask and the higher ABV.
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