Welcome to KWM Whisky Advent Day 15 – Old Pulteney 12 Year
Old Pulteney is one of only 2 distilleries in Scotland named after a person, the other being Glen Grant in Rothes. The Old Pulteney distillery was built in Pultneytown, a purpose built herring fishing port commissioned by Sir William Pulteney who was the governor of the Royal Fisheries Society in the late 1700s. Built on the south side of Wick, the town was posthumously named for him in 1805. It would remain a separate town until 1902 when it was merged with the Royal Burgh of Wick. The town was built to be populated by the Scots evicted from their lands during the Highland Clearances and forced to take up fishing and other maritime careers. Pulteneytown became one of the major players in the herring boom of the 19th Century, by some accounts the ‘Herring Capital of Europe’ and swarming with people, naturally it had a thirst for whisky and needed a distillery.
Old Pulteney was built in 1826, less than a decade after the passage of the small stills act which made it much easier to obtain a license and go legit. Alcoholism was rife for a spell in Pulteneytown during the herring boom. Figures from the period show that for time every man woman and child in the town was consuming a half liter of whisky a day, some presumably more than others. Drinking eventually became such a problem that the town had to enact prohibition, leaving the distillery to operate in a dry town, much as the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg Tennessee does to this day.
Until recently with the opening of Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso, Old Pulteney could lay claim to being Scotland’s northernmost mainland distillery. The distillery is almost hidden in the purposefully laid out streets of the Pulteneytown area of Wick in much the same buildings as it was in 1826. It is one of the hardest distilleries in Scotland to find and nearly impossible to take a satisfying picture of. One of the distillery’s curiosities is its flat topped still wash still, something that is extremely uncommon in the industry. I’ve heard three different explanations for its origin:
- Version 1: That is flat topped so as to encourage spirit reflux to produce a lighter spirit. Which is unlikely as it shortens the height of the still and therefor counteracting its ability to lighten.
- Version 2: Originally there was a top driven rumager (a device which stirs the sediment at the bottom to keep it from burning and adhering to the bottom). This also seems unlikely as it would be exposed to an enormous amount of torque.
- Version 3: That they miss-measured the amount of space available for the still and had to shave some of it off. The distillery insists this is not the case.
Whatever the truth, the unusual still has given rise to some world class whiskies.
Old Pulteney is owned today by Inver House Distillers along with Balblair, Knockdhu and Balmenach distilleries. Inver House is is in turn owned by InterBev of Thailand. Old Pulteney’s core range consists of 12 Year, 17 Year and 21 Year old expressions. In the last year we have seen a number of other limited releases like the, accidentally peated 1990, 35 Year and Old Pulteney 40 Year.
Old Pulteney 12 Year - 40% – Ex Bourbon Matured – Andrew’s Tasting Note: “Nose: honey and salted caramel, very malty with musty old oak; big candied orange and ginger with cinnamon sticks; reminds me a little of a Manhattan. Palate: creamy, malty, fresh and a tad briny; more salted caramel, candied orange and ginger, cinnamon sticks and some maraschino cherry; both the nose and palate have me thinking Manhattan. Finish: light, clean, malty and maritime with fading spices and orange. Comment: fresh, honeyed and salty, this whisky is excellent bang for the buck.” – $64.99
Order Old Pulteney 12 Year $64.99
Stay tuned for Day 16 of KWM Whisky Advent Tomorrow