Old Pulteney is a Highland whisky, and the northern-most distillery on the Scottish mainland. Located in the coastal harbor town of Wick (and featuring a big-ass ship on its bottle), it is sometimes called the “maritime malt.”
The distillery uses non-peated malt in its production, and is distinguished from all but 4 other distilleries in that it uses dried, rather than liquid, yeast in its distillation. The vast majority of whisky produced by the distillery is aged in ex-bourbon barrels, though some sherry casks are used. Ten percent of the whisky used in the 17 year old was matured in Oloroso sherry casks, and one third of the whisky in the 21 year old expression contain whisky aged in Fino sherry casks. It’s coastal location is often said to impart a salty quality to its whisky.
For a more in-depth description of the distillery and its production process, I’d be doing you a disservice not to recommend the excellent write up by Whisky for Everyone of a visit to the distillery last year. Thanks to Alembic Communications for providing these free samples.
Old Pulteney 17
Nose: Bread and malt. Some kind of pumpkin spice — maybe cinnamon. Faint orangey citrus in the back.
Taste: The bread and malt (maybe this is what folks mean by “cereals?”) remain upfront along with the pumpkin spices and some vanilla. It’s got a bit more of a bite than I’d expect at 46% ABV.
Finish: It’s a light finish that fades more quickly than I’d like.
Overall: A really great, refreshing dram in a totally different way than more fragrant lowlands or overly fruitier speysides. Like having a perfectly baked piece of bread in the morning with a little sugar or cinnamon sprinkled in top. This is a bottle I’d keep on my shelf.
Old Pulteney 21
Nose: Vanilla and caramel, an earthen-hint. Leather or tobacco. A touch of fruit still on the very back becomes apparent after several nosings, but it is fainter than in the 17 year old.
Taste: Continues the trend — it’s very malty. More vanilla and caramel with an underlying touch of leather.
Finish: The finish is longer and the malt continues to dominate, but there is a slight sweetness on the end that is fruity, but not readily assignable to any particular variety of fruit — something fairly benign, like pears.
Overall: Very similar to the 17, but this has clearly mellowed with age, acquiring more influence from the wood. Looking back on the 17 now, I can see perhaps why other reviewers assign it a more fruit-flavored profile. I actually prefer the 17 year old over this dram.