I think this review has been long promised/threatened. It’s a good thing I didn’t get around to it when I first said I would because this is one of those whiskies that went from being blah when first opened to being quite pleasant after it had sat with some in the air in the bottle for a few weeks/months. The very high strength doubtless had something to do with that. Anyway, this is somewhat unusual because it’s an independent Old Pulteney: you don’t see too many of those around (I believe the distillery requires that the indies drop the “Old” from their labels). And this bottle itself is not a recent release. It’s from a Cadenhead’s series from before they left the US market (only to come back again a couple of years ago). A number of the whiskies released in this series in the mid-late 1990s can still be found here and there: the prices and quality are variable but, as I said, you don’t see too many indie Pulteneys around.
Pulteney 8, 1990 (63.1%; Cadenhead’s; bourbon cask; from my own bottle)
Nose: Somewhat neutral and grainy at first with an indistinct sweetness but then there’s some brine and slowly expanding citrus (lemon) that picks up some apple along the way. Stays that way for the most part: maybe a bit of pear mixed in and then later it gets maltier. A big slug of water and it’s a much fruitier party: the apple and pear expand, get muskier and are joined by berries and cream; more floral too now.
Palate: Very hot but not entirely closed: there’s lime, white pepper and some apple/cider. Thick mouthfeel. Saltier and maltier on the second sip. With time there’s more oak and more intense lime. Okay, let’s see what water does. Well, there’s nothing new here but it’s all more approachable. Let’s try some more water: sweeter now and more peppery still and the whole is now quite pleasant.
Finish: Long. At first there’s nothing but the trail of the alcohol burn. Then it’s the salt/brine and citrus; the oak spice gets more peppery. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is a tricky one. I’ve liked the nose every time I’ve tried it but had more trouble with the palate, especially at the top half of the bottle, when the heat was a bit too overpowering and I could never get the balance of water right. As it got closer to the end it mellowed a little and/or I managed to figure out the water better: adding a few drops, waiting a little and then adding some more.
Rating: 84 points. (Would have been a few points lower if the review had been written a few months ago.)
FWIW the name of the distillery is Pulteney. “Old Pulteney” is a trade name used by the producer for its OBs, and therefore should not appear on the labels IBs, although I’ve seen it a few times. Your Cadenhead’s bottle is not “an independent Old Pulteney”, it’s an independent Pulteney (and appears to be so labeled).
Thanks for setting me straight. (Though I think you’ve done it before and I really should have remembered.)