Pulteney 1977-2005 (Scott’s Selection)

Pulteney, 1977This is the third in my recent consortial purchase of Scott’s Selection bottles, and at 27-28 years old is, by far, the oldest Pulteney I’ve ever had. I’m excited. These notes will also be published simultaneously with Michael Kravitz’s at Diving for Pearls. I’m curious to see how much variance or intersection there will be in our notes. [And here is the link to Michael’s review.]

Pulteney 1977-2005 (56.9%; Scott’s Selection; from a bottle split with friends)

Nose: Pine and rye and some other sweet herbal, rooty notes. Some wood below that and also the brine I associate with the distillery. The wood gets stronger with time, but not offensively so. A few minutes later though the wood recedes and the herbal/rooty notes are gone; in their place is a very rich fruitiness: plums, hints of lime, brandied raisins. Wholly unexpected but very nice. The wood comes back but it’s toasted now and smeared with honey; some vanilla accompanies it. With a few drops of water the toasted wood and vanilla expand, and there might be some butterscotch too now; after a minute the lime and honey get much more pronounced as well.

Palate: Hot. The wood and the fruit do battle and at first, at least, the wood seems to win; not decisively though. Some pepper as well. On the second sip there’s a distinct tropical accent to the fruit. On the third sip the fruit has outflanked the wood. This needs water though and hopefully it will bring those tropical notes out more strongly. Hmmm water certainly accentuates the lime but the tropical notes don’t expand very much. More vanilla sweetness though, and still some woody bite that gets stronger again.

Finish: Medium. Somewhat indistinct at first but then some of the fruit hangs around. Some vanilla here too now. More citrus with water but not a whole lot of change.

Comments: After an unpromising start the nose really blossomed. The palate didn’t quite match it, I’m afraid, even though it offered some teasing hints that it could. Just a bit too much wood on the palate. Very pleasant though, on the whole, and it’s possible that with more time and the right amount of water that tropical fruit could be coaxed out. If so, this would get a higher score. At any rate, I am now intrigued by the thought of older Pulteneys. Too bad there are so few of them out there and that the official ones cost so much.

Rating: 85 points.

The review, comments and rating above were recorded right after the bottle was opened and divvied up. I decided to revisit it quickly more than two weeks later on the eve of my simultaneous review with Michael and note changes if any. Here goes:

Nose: Not much of the piney/herbal/woody notes that I got on the first occasion–it moves much quicker to the honeyed fruit and is then consistent with the earlier review (except far less brine, if any).

Palate: Less wood on the palate this time and it’s also not quite as hot two weeks later. Other than that this is pretty consistent with the first go around as well.

Finish: More or less identical to the first time.

Comments: This is a 6 oz sample that went into a 6 oz jar, so it’s not like it’s been exposed to a lot of air in the last two weeks, but perhaps the process of pouring into four jars (this was shared with two other friends and mine was the last jar filled) had some effect? Certainly, some of the rougher edges I got the first time have softened. Alas, the tropical fruit hints I got on the first go-around haven’t expanded so much as receded since then. On the whole, I’d give it a slightly higher score tonight.

Rating: 87 points.

12 thoughts on “Pulteney 1977-2005 (Scott’s Selection)

  1. Our notes were much closer this time. And it seems as if a little bit of oxidation does open it up.

    One question. In the palate, I found a lot of tartness, while you found a lot of oak. Was the wood note you found buttery or toasty or bitter or literally wood pulp/bark? I’m going to take a look for it with my next glass of this stuff.

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  2. I got a lot of oak the first time (from the fresh crack) but not very much last night. On the nose, on the first go around, it started out a little sharper but turned into toasted wood with vanilla/butterscotch; last night it just led with the fruit. On the palate the wood was a little too obtrusive the first time around but more in the background the second time. And I did get lime both times–I just didn’t note it as strongly because the wood was more prominent on the first occasion and on the second occasion I was only remarking significant differences (mostly the reduction in woodiness and heat).

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  3. The blog is currently being inundated with spam, all of which is being focused on this post for some reason. In a doubtless futile attempt to plug this I am therefore temporarily turning off the comments on this post. I am sure this will have the effect of making my review of Glen Moray 12 or something else the next target but let’s see. Hopefully, the hosting company will block this traffic at a network level.

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  4. I know of a mom-and-pop-ish bottle shop shop in Illinois that happens to be sitting on a number of these Scott’s Selections. It’s been a few weeks, but these are details that I THINK I remember:

    •1977 Macallan, $400

    •1981 Caol Ila, $300

    •1977 Pulteney, $200

    •198x Highland Park, $300?

    I’m really tempted by both the Caol Ila and the Pulteney. I like both distilleries, I’ve never had whisky that old before, and I’m comfortable spending that much for the first time, next time I get a little windfall. I was born in 1978, so that 1977 Pulteney would be my first (and last?) chance to drink something that predates me.

    I wonder if MAO or anyone else would care to cast a vote on whether these—especially the Pulteney—is worth it. Thanks!

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  5. I’d say that given the extra value you place on the Pulteney it’s “worth it”. $200 is not so very much more than I paid for the bottle a few of us split and that was a couple of years ago. Without knowing the specifics of the other bottles I couldn’t say but if it’s the 1986 Highland Park I reviewed right before this Pulteney I would not pay $300 for it. I liked it a lot but for $300 there’s other things you could buy.

    Would you mind if I turned the general premise of your question into a separate post sometime next week?

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  6. Patrick and MAO, thanks for the nudge! I think I’ll save up my whisky pennies and go for that 1977 Pulteney if I get a chance. When I was last in there, the clerk suggested that the owner might haggle a bit too, so it could be mine for less than $200. I got the impression that they’ll be surprised if anyone ever buys “those super-expensive bottles.”

    And MAO, I think that’d be great if did a topic on buying old bottles like these.

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  7. MAO, on that other topic, you said this: “That bottle of Pulteney [that Ol’ Jas is talking about] was also being sold [at $200] for quite a bit more than would have been asked for it five years ago, leave alone at release.”

    Dare I ask, how much was this going for five years ago? At release?

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  8. Five years ago you could probably have easily found it at $150 or below. I confess I do not know what the price was at release but based on old stickers I’ve seen on other Scott’s bottles released around that time I’d guess it was closer to $100 or even below. Consider that the Benromach 1978-1997 that I purchased a couple of years ago for not very much less than $200 had a sticker on it that read $85*. I purchased that one not because I thought it was going to be a classic but because it seemed like my last chance to try Benromach from that period—and, as it happens, I quite liked it.

    *In 2009 or so I’d purchased from the same store an OMC Brora 21, 1981 for $125 and in 2011 the Scott’s Port Ellen 1982-2003 for $175. The Brora was the last bottle—they had quite a few of the Port Ellens then—the price kept rising till they were gone.

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    • Yowza. And thanks.

      You know, we drinkers are always regretting not buying more of that rare stuff back in the day when it was cheaper, but I also wonder whether retailers ever regret letting things go for prices that today seem so low.

      “We used to have cases of Port Ellen! I shoulda held those back until now and made a killing!” :)

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