Old Pulteney WK 217, Spectrum

Old Pulteney WK 217This was the third in Old Pulteney’s WK series, each named for fishing boats associated with the port town of Wick that is home to the distillery. I have previously finished a bottle of the cask strength WK 499, Isabella Fortuna, which I rather liked (I think I may have a reference sample saved). Later editions of the WK 499 and also the second release, the Wk 209, Good Hope were not at cask strength and nor is this edition, the WK 217 Spectrum. As per the tin this is entirely from sherry butts, but from a combination of Spanish and American oak. (As I noted here, I’ve only recently learned that butts used for maturing sherry in Spain are typically made from American oak while European oak casks are used primarily for shipping; I have to quit my knee-jerk equation of American oak casks with ex-bourbon casks.) This makes it quite different from the Old Pulteney 12, which is the most ubiquitous of the distillery’s releases in the US, and which I rather like and also from the WK 499, which I recall as being quintessentially ex-bourbon in character. 

As you can see from the photograph this is not my first go-around with this bottle. My early impressions were that it was not a patch on the CS WK 499, but this is my first time spending serious time with it (the rest of the bottle was consumed by friends).

Old Pulteney WK 217 (46%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Somewhat jumbled. There’s some orange peel and some cinnamon and nutmeg, but also a grassiness. With a little more time there’s some caramel but also a sweaty, malty note; then the brine I associate with Pulteney shows up. With more time the nose settles down and now the orange peel and caramel complement each other nicely. And 30 minutes later the nose is really quite rich with toffee and maple syrup joining the citrus. With water there’s an added nuttiness (hazelnut), some milk chocolate and more fruit (apricot)

Palate: As on the nose, the flavours run together at first in an indistinct sherried sweetness, and then the caramel, citrus and brine separate. The citrus (somewhere between orange and lemon) and the brine hang around longer than the caramel and then the salt expands. And there’s a rough edge/bite to it. With the benefit of time the citrus intensifies on the palate and there’s more cinnamon here too now. The roughness never quite goes away though (youth?). More fruit on the palate too with water–apricot and lemon–but that rough/metallic edge still hangs around.

Finish: Longer than expected. It’s mostly the salt that hangs around and there’s also a metallic note on the edges of my tongue. Well after the swallow, however, there’s the taste of orange liqueur. With water the sherry begins to separate a little at the end (maybe I added too much).

Comments: This one needs time and water. On the nose it goes from a grab bag of sherry aromas to a fairly rich sherried profile. Though the palate shows less evolution it becomes pleasant enough with time. But, on the whole, it remains somewhat generic: you can find the chunky, sherried profile this ends up exhibiting up and down the Highlands and the Speyside. The subtler, and more idiosyncratic pleasures of the Old Pulteney 12 are not to be found here. Either for Old Pulteney completists or someone just looking for a solid sherried whisky that doesn’t demand much attention (though it does require patience).

Rating: 84 points.

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