Old Pulteney (Pronounced: Old PULT-nee)
58°26'5.06"N, 3° 5'3.69"W
Brora, Clynelish, Highland Park, Scapa
Loch Hempriggs (cooling water)
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still - but there used to be three
3,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Pacific Spirits > Inver House (since 1995)
Huddart Street, Wick, Caithness. KW1 5BA, Scotland, UK
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
The beautiful picture above of a glorious seascape
was the winner in a photo competition that was
organised by Old Pulteney in 2008. A great job!
2001 - Pacific Spirits (a subsidiary of the Great Oriole Group) acquires Inver House for circa $85,000,000.-
2004 - A 17yo official bottling is released. Initially this whisky was bottled at an ABV of 40% and 43%, but around 2006 the alcohol percentage is increased to 46% - and it stayed that way for years to come.
2006 - Pacific Spirits UK is acquired by International Beverage Holdings.
2009 - Old Pulteney releases a 30 years old official bottling at the fairly unusual ABV of 44%.
I imagine this was a fairly small batch and some casks could have dropped below the legal minimum of 40%.
2012 - With the construction of the new Wolfburn distillery near Thurso, Old Pulteney is no longer the most northernly malt whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland. It is hard to compare the distilleries though; the production capacity of Wolfburn is just 5% of that of Old Pulteney.
The town experienced a 'boom' in the 19th century thanks to the herring
industry. The bay was filled with hundreds of fishing boats and at a certain
point the local herring economy became so overheated that the authorities
had to declare an alcohol prohibition to prevent things from running out of
control. So, the Pulteney distillery was located in a 'dry town' for a while.
The Old Pulteney distillery
was founded in 1826 by James Henderson in
Wick, a fishing village in the far north-east of Scotland. The town lies next
to the Wick River and used to be a Royal Burgh in the 16th century. The
part of Wick where the distillery is located was called Pulteneytown; it used
to be a separate town until 1902. Both Pulteneytown and Old Pulteney are
named after Sir William Pulteney, a governor of the British Fisheries Society.
The Pulteney distillery is fairly unique in the sense that it's located within a town; as
far as I know only Bowmore, Oban and Springbank share this trait. Pultneytown was
built by Thomas Telford as a fishing village; streets were named after Thomas' friends.
The town was later improved by the engineer Thomas Stevenson, father of the famous
writer Robert Louis Stevenson (author of 'Treasure Island'). Meanwhile, the Henderson
family was still in control of the Pulteney distillery - and they remained in control until
1920 when Old Pulteney was sold to James Watson & Co. Ltd. from Dundee. They
didn't hang on to the distillery for long; in 1923 it was sold to John Dewar's & Sons Ltd.
John Dewar & Sons owned the Old Pulteney distillery
for only two years; in 1925 it was taken over by the
Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL). The DCL decided to
close the distillery five years later in 1930. The Old
Pulteney distillery remained inactive for 2 decades
until 1951 when Old Pulteney was resurrected by
R. Cumming; a lawyer from Banff in Speyside. This
'amateur' sold the distillery to Hiram Walker in 1955
who decided to renovate Pulteney in 1958. One year
later the maltings at Old Pulteney were closed.
In 1961 the owners of Old Pulteney were sold to Allied Breweries which changed its name to Allied Lyons in 1981 and to Allied Domecq plc in 1994. In 1995 the distillery was acquired by Inver House Distillers. They released a 12 years old official bottling in 1997, which was followed by older expressions a few years later.
1) The northernmost town of mainland Scotland is John O'Groats; less than 20 miles north of the town of Wick and the Old Pultney distillery. The Old Pulteney distillery isn't the northernmost distillery in Scotland though... Highland Park and Scapa are located on the Orkney islands a little further to the north. For more than a century it used to be the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland though - until the Wolfburn distillery was built in 2012.
2) The warehouses at the distillery have room for circa 30,000 casks - most of them bourbon casks.
3) Old Pulteney has two stills at the moment, but around the turn of the century they still had three.
The two small spirit stills that were utilised at that time were later replaced by a single, larger still.
4) The Old Pulteney whisky became an important part of the 'Ballantines' blends at some point.
5) The lawyer R. Cumming who obtained Old Pulteney in 1951 had bought Balblair distillery two years earlier.
6) In the north east of Scotland, girls are called "quines" and boys "louns".
Old Pulteney 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Beery start, growing malty after a few seconds. Later on subtle fruity and spicy notes emerge.
Taste: Smooth and sweetish start, growing a little stronger in the centre. Less sweet in the medium dry finish.
Score: 79 points - it's very close to recommendable, but the finish keeps it in the upper 70's.
Old Pulteney 17yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Light fruits over a malty base. Some subtle flowery traits as well. Hints of passion fruits and yoghurt.
Taste: More flowery than fruity. It remains fairly balanced until the finish, which appears fairly perfumy.
Score: 81 points - fairly well balanced and complex, which can't be said about all earlier batches.
Old Pulteney 21yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Malty and sweetish. After a few minutes more farmy aroma's and some organics emerge.
Taste: Sweet. Starts off much stronger than the nose suggests, but it's extremely smooth at the same time.
Score: 80 points - I like it, but at the same time it's amazing that all Pulteney OB's are so similar these days.
Old Pulteney 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Malty, rich & fruity. Whiffs of old fashioned candy. A little bit of oil as well.
Shines for a few minutes and then settles down, showing more metallic notes.
Taste: Solid start & centre. However, towards the finish it grows quite bitter. Lacks some sweetness.
Score: 79 points - a solid malt whisky with a short-lived complexity in the nose.
Old Pulteney 17yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Sharp and veggy start, dropping off quickly. Very different from a '2005' batch I tried earlier.
Then it builds itself up as a more mainstream malt again with gentle fruity and flowery notes.
Taste: Smooth start, but a strong bitterness takes over. Slightly metallic. Some aspirin in the finish.
Score: 74 points - oddly enough I personally prefer the Pulteney 12yo whisky by a few points.
Old Pulteney 21yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: I added too much water during my first try, but it was still big, rich and sweet. Spicy too.
Growing complexity over time. The bouquet showed more veggy notes during a second try.
Taste: Smooth and sweet. Pleasant, slightly fruity centre. Fairly 'middle of the road' with a bitter finish.
Score: 81 points - recommendable, and my favourite official expression of Old Pulteney so far.
Old Pulteney 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Dusty and a little farmy. Malty. Rotting milk powder. Quite odd. Is this another bad nose day?
Second try: Sweet and polished in the nose. Malty. I was WAAAAY off during my first try. Quite nice, actually.
Taste: Phew.... Astringent and not much else. Feels like I just swallowed a tube of aspirins... Am I crazy?
Score: 79 points - not too expressive in the nose and not THAT impressive on the palate, but very drinkable.
Old Pulteney 17yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Glue - that's all for a long time. Some spices emerge after a few minutes. Malty? MOTR.
It seems slightly more expressive during round II. A little sweet and a little malty. Again, MOTR.
Taste: Watery at first. No character, depth or development. It powers up over time, but too little too late.
That being said, if you wait long enough this actually becomes quite pleasant. It really needs time.
Score: 80 points - not too bad on the palate either - I was way off with my initial score in the 50's.
Old Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (55.6%, Hart Brothers)
Nose: Sweet and creamy, malty and fruity. Balanced and quite complex. Mocca? Marzipan?
Cold Earl Grey tea. Salmiak? A little dusty. Oh boy, this malt is extremely kind to my nose!
Taste: Tea, then fruits. A little smoke as well. Solid in the centre. Yeah, I like it a lot.
It shows neither the complexity nor development of the nose on the palate but I like it.
Score: 86 points - I'd have to put this Old Pulteney in the 'highly recommendable' category.
Pulteney 12yo 1990/2002 (62.1%, Cadenhead's, 234 bottles)
Nose: Sweet and creamy. Malty. Organics and spices after a minute. Nutmeg? Hint of peat?
Over time it grows spicier and spicier with strong organics. Girlie sweat - in a nice way.
Taste: Smooth and sweet, followed by a big burn. Creamy. Great structure.
Hardly feels like a cask strength malt, actually. Remains sweet throughout.
Score: 82 points - yes, this is certainly reccommendable - I was even leaning towards 83 points.
At this proof, the pricetag of 54 Euro's means it offers better value than the 12yo official bottling in my book.
Pulteney 34yo 1964/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 197 Bottles)
Nose: Salty & creamy. A unique combination. Hint of spicy mint. Slowly growing more 'herbal'. Interesting!
Taste: A strange combination of sweet and herbal. Woody with quite a lot of tannins. Quite special, actually.
Score: 84 points - I picked this because I thought that Pulteney was still on my 'to do' list, but it wasn't.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Old Pulteney Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Pulteney page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Old Pulteney expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or