A few hours after this review gets posted I will be driving north from Glasgow into the Highlands. I will not be going as far as Wick (where Pulteney is located), only to the Drumnadrochit area. Still, it feels appropriate to post a review of a northern Highland malt while I’m in the general vicinity. And so here’s a young Old Pulteney. This is unusual in several respects. First, that it’s an independent bottling of Pulteney. Second, that despite being an independent bottling it bears the Old Pulteney name—the distillery’s name is Pulteney; “Old Pulteney” is more like a brand name. Third, it’s from a sherry cask. It’s not that no sherry casks are used in formulating the malts in Pulteney’s regular lineup but it’s not a distillery you think of when you think of sherry bombs. And this is very much a sherry bomb. It’s also very much an alcohol bomb, at almost 60% abv. And it’s a brash youngster too. I can also tell you right off the bat that it’s a lot better than the Cadenhead’s 11 yo I recently reviewed, which was also from 2006. Continue reading
I purchased this Pulteney from Cadenhead’s in Marylebone on my visit a couple of weeks ago. They sell a range of minis of their various bottlings, and as they don’t seem to be set up to let customers taste bottles they’re interested in it’s the only way to try before you buy. In theory, at least: in practice, right now they only have a mini of one bottle that is actually still in stock and this Pulteney is not it (it’s a 12 yo Balmenach, if you want to know). Still, the price was less than that of a pour in most bars and so I decided to buy it (and a few others) anyway. There aren’t that many opportunities to taste indie Pulteney out there and I did like an even younger one Cadenhead’s bottled a long while ago (this 8 yo, distilled in 1990). And as I also have a review lined up of another young indie Pulteney (from a sherry cask), I thought I’d put this review of a bourbon cask up first and make it seem like I had a master plan. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
This 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. Continue reading
This 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.