If there’s one distillery that’s synoymous with the sea, it has to be Old Pulteney. Its whisky bottles are adorned with images of fishing vessels, seagulls, compasses. It even calls itself “the Maritime Malt.” The 190-year-old distillery, located in Wick, a town in northeastern Scotland, goes as far as mentioning how the salty sea air imparts extra flavor notes to its whisky.
The bottles are inspired by the shape of the distillery’s stills. Their shape provide lot of reflux, which make the spirit fragrant. The distillery’s copper pot still is the only one in Scotland that doesn’t have a swan neck. Its also one of the few distilleies in Scotland using worm tub condensers instead of the more common shell and tube condensers. Old Pulteney uses mostly ex-bourbon casks for maturation, as well as a small amount of ex-sherry casks.
We’re looking at their core range, which is comprised of the NAS Navigator, as well as the 12-year, 17-year, and 21-year old expressions. Except for the 12-year, all are bottled at 46% and un-chill filtered. The 12-year old is bottled at a slightly lower 43% abv. Old Pulteney Navigator mentions natural color on its label. Judging by the differing shades of amber of the other bottles, IF the distillery is adding caramel coloring, it’s not heavy handed.
OLD PULTENEY NAVIGATOR
The only NAS whisky in Old Pulteney’s core range, Navigator is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Bountiful crisp orchard fruits leap out of the glass, brightened further by orange zest. Hints of nuts, dried fruits, and vanilla round out the nose. The palate is less sweet than the nose suggests, with vanilla, salted caramel, and dried fruits. A certain flintiness runs throughout, leading into the slightly dry and citrus-tinged finish. I like this expression, though I have to admit it’s not as complex as I’d hoped. 8/10. $55
OLD PULTENEY 12-YEAR-OLD
This 12-year-old expression is aged solely in ex-bourbon casks, which means it should provide a clear picture of the character of the spirit. The nose suggests honey, salty sea air, some minerals, and a slight floral note. Taste-wise, toffee, vanilla, and sweet malt are dominant. As found in the nose, a flintiness appears here mid-palate. A touch of Mexican chocolate adds some richness and bitterness. The long finish leaves behind some semi-sweet honeyed malt notes. Like Navigator, Old Pulteney 12-year-old isn’t overly complex, but is quite enjoyable. Those just getting into Scotch would do themselves a great disservice by not trying this expression from Old Pulteney. 7.5/10. $45
OLD PULTENEY 17-YEAR-OLD
Old Pulteney 17-year-old is matured in both ex-bourbon and ex-Spanish sherry casks. The nose here is quite wonderful with lots of dried fruits, dark honey, vanilla custard, and roasted nuts. Butterscotch candy and a fragrant floral note appear with a little airtime. The full-bodied whisky provides a rich tasting experience. There are the heavier salted caramel and dark fruits, as well as baking spices and vanilla bean. Edible rose petals add a slight delicate character. The finish is long, sweet, and spicy. The additional age and sherry cask maturation really elevate this whisky from its younger siblings. Rich, elegant and complex, Old Pulteney is highly recommended. 9/10. $119
OLD PULTENEY 21-YEAR-OLD
Whisky writer Jim Murray picked Old Pulteney 21 as his World Whisky of the Year back in 2012. This expression is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-Fino sherry casks. Fino sherry is a dry sherry compared to the commonly used Oloroso sherry, which is a bit nuttier. The nose is fruity and fragrant, with hints of stewed pears, burnt orange peel, spice and vanilla. The entry features both stewed and candied orchard fruits, orange zest, honey, and oak spice. Some oak tannins emerge towards the end of the palate and into the dry finish, which leave behind bittersweet malt and citrus-like notes. Like the sherry casks it uses, Old Pulteney 21-year-old is a drier than its siblings. I’d also call it more elegant, as its fruit notes come across as a touch more refined than the 17-year. That said, my palate slightly prefers the 17-year over this one, as that whisky is a richer tasting experience. 8.5/10 $179
Thanks to Old Pulteney for the Navigator, 12-year, and 21-year samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.