In 1826, during a period in the Wick county town history known as the Great Herring Boom, a small distillery was established right in the heart of ‘Pulteneytown’. This Old Pulteney Distillery was and still is one of the most northerly distilleries on the Scottish mainland. Before roads were layed out this Highland Distillery was quite inaccessible. Barley was brought in by sea and the whisky was shipped out the same way. Many of the distillery workers were also employed as fishermen. Wick became known for the barrels of silver (herring) and gold (whisky) which left the port in huge numbers.
The distillery itself has an interesting history, with its distinctive pot stills defying convention to this day. The wash still, is an ongoing source of fascination due to the absence of a ‘swan neck’. Legend has it that when the still was delivered it was too tall for the still house and the manager simply decided to cut the top off. The Old Pulteney bottle incorporates a bulbous neck to reflect the shape of the stills.
The distillery closed in 1930 due to declining trade after the local parish enforced prohibition laws but re-opened in 1951 when the law was abolished. It is now owned by Inver House Distillers. Single malt whisky is bottled under the name Old Pulteney and there have been both official and independent releases over the years.
The Old Pulteney 21 yo has been voted 2012 World Whisky of the Year by the prestigious “Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.” The herring fishing industry is no longer part of daily life in Wick but the distillery continues to operate. The Old Pulteney 21 yo has been mature in ex-Olorosso sherry cask as well as ex-bourbon casks.
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Tasting notes for the Old Pulteney 21 yo
COLOUR: A golden amber with straw highlights.
ABV: 46% and is non chill filtered and has a natural colour. It is a nice oily whisky with slow fingers on the inside of the glass.
NOSE: On first impression, the nose brings sherry with cereals. There are notes of oak, and florals. The nose is smooth and quite subtle. The sweetness from the bourbon casks comes through in notes of toffee and vanilla.
PALATE: When tasting the Old Pulteney 21 yo without adding any water it is fairly spicy. After the addition of a bit of water the palate brings notes of oak, spice, cereals with hints of butterscotch. There are notes of fruit and malt cookies in the background.
FINISH: The Old Pulteney 21 yo has a medium length finish that end in notes of spice, oak and fruit.
I give the Old Pulteney 21 yo a RATING: VERY GOOD.
Strangely the Old Pulteney reminded me a bit of the Highland Park 18 yo that I tasted here. There are notes in the finish of both whiskies that are very similar. Looking on a map of distilleries, I noticed that these 2 distilleries are quite close together.
In terms of a whisky food pairing, Marc Pendelbury, owner of the WhiskyBrother speciality whisky shop in Hyde Park Corner, (and our favourite whisky shop in South Africa) suggest that you try the Old Pulteney 21 yo with a whole quail. Now that sounds delicious!
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