Old Pulteney 17

Old Pulteney 17
I’ve barely reviewed any Pulteney on the blog, and none from the core age-stated, official range—though I did include the 12 yo in my “well-rounded single malt bar“. Here now is the 17 yo. I believe this is from a bottling from 2012 or so and is a vatting of both bourbon and sherry casks.

Pulteney is in the Northern Highlands—way up in the north of Scotland. Its closest neighbour on the mainland is Clynelish, I believe, and the two Orkney distilleries may be even closer. In terms of profile I usually find it to be close to Balblair (also in the Northern Highlands) and Clynelish—which may say something after all for the notion of regional profiles, which I’m usually suspicious of. Pulteney is the name of the distillery, by the way—Old Pulteney is the name of the whisky produced by the distillery. I believe it used to be the case that independents couldn’t use the “Old Pulteney” name—certainly the case for the older Scott’s Selection and Cadenhead’s bottles I’ve reviewed—but of late I’ve been seeing it on indie labels as well. 

Old Pulteney 17 (46%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A little chalky and grassy at first but as it sits it gets briny with some lemon rind and a more indistinct sweet note joining in as well. That grassy/chalky thing takes a turn towards cider and the sweet note towards vanilla and a bit of pastry crust. Water brings the chalk back.

Palate: Lemon zest leads the way and then there’s quite a bit of malty sweetness and a nutty, bready thing. Very nice. Nice mouthfeel too. On the second sip there’s quite a lot of brine. The lemon expands as it sits (still quite zesty) and the pepper shows up earlier too. With more time and air a metallic note pops up as well and those intriguing malty, bready/nutty notes recede. Water pushes the metallic note back but washes everything else out a bit too; far less briny now.

Finish: Medium-long. Gets a little peppery at first and then that salt from the palate really kicks in. A while after swallowing there’s a milk-chocolatey taste in my mouth. With more time there’s a slight oaky bitterness too. With a lot of time (almost an hour) it gets quite fruity. As on the palate with water.

Comments: It wasn’t very promising at first sniff but the nose opened up nicely as it sat. I liked the palate from the get-go. Basically, I’d say it’s a richer version of the 12 yo—more or less what you’d expect that to be with five more years and sherry casks in the mix. It’s just missing some character and development. I wouldn’t ever turn down a pour though—but I’d hold the water.

Rating: 84 points.

Thanks to Florin for the sample!

5 thoughts on “Old Pulteney 17

  1. Wow, I sent you a sample of this? I bought the bottle in Dec 2011 so it’s likely a 2011 bottling. (Isn’t that when Old Pulteney 21yo was declared Best Whisky on Earth by the Donald Trump of whisky?) I liked it too and your review reflects pretty much exactly how I felt about it: good and honest, though not life-changing: “It’s very nice, with a citrusy edge, malty backbone, and perfumed nose. However, I have to be in the right mood for it, I don’t always like it. Better tamed with a little water. 3.5*”


  2. For what it is worth (not much probably!) the revival of Wolfburn distillery in Thurso on the northern edge of the mainland now makes it the closest neighbor to Pulteney. Wolfburn began production in 2013 and has recently released what is obviously very young whisky from their initial production. HP and Scapa are probably slightly closer than Clynelish as you note but none are as close as Wolfburn.

    Pulteney recently released a new NAS version (hasn’t everybody by now) called Navigator that I tried at one of the recent whisky shows. OK as I recall but nothing that was particularly memorable (again pretty much like everybody else!). The 17 and 21 were both more enjoyable. I know, big surprise. Not that a whisky show is necessarily the best place to evaluate a particular whisky!


  3. I’m very fond of Pulteney. Like you, I tend to dismiss claims of regional terroir, but as it happens, I am also very fond of Clynelish, Balblair, Ord, Teaninich, and even Glenmorangie, all along the same stretch of coastline. The one that doesn’t seem to fit is Dalmore. There may be something about the geology of the region that contributes to the character of the water–there’s a lot of sandstone, I think–or there may just be some arcane similarity of method in the area. Pulteney, Clynelish, and Teaninich are the big three for me. I note that you have reviewed three Teaninichs, two of which were sherry-matured. Fans of the style would do well, I think, to seek bourbon-matured Teaninich.


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