A review of Old Pulteney 17 yr old single malt official release.
Old Pulteney has always had a special place in my heart. Up until 2004 I had never heard of this distillery. Like I had mentioned here single malts like Old Pulteney, Dalwhinnie were all but obscure. Well at least for me. All that changed in 2005 when I was on a holiday in the UK. After wrapping up much of the touristy rituals in and around London, and with very little time left, my wife and I decided to visit Scotland. In hindsight I should have totally avoided London all together and spent more time in Scotland. So with the beautiful Edinburgh city as our base I decided to embark on the whisky trail. But the Scottish weather gods thought differently. There were flash floods in and around the whisky trail route and all my hopes came crashing down like the rain itself. What a bummer! So out went the whisky trail and in came more touristy rituals. But in all honesty I enjoyed every bit of Scotland, touristy and otherwise. What a beautiful place! Loved Edinburgh as a city. It certainly made me connect with Ian Rankin's books a lot more. I love the tartan noir, hard boiled genre. Ok I'm digressing, back to Old Pulteney.
With my Scottish sojourn (in)complete it was time to head back to London. At the Edinburgh airport I spot a duty free shop. As I was casually browsing, the staff lady at the store asked me if I was looking for anything specific. I asked her if she could recommend something beyond the usual suspects. She nods and gets a bottle of the Old Pulteney 12yr old and a Dalwhinnie 15yr old. (I will discuss Dalwhinnie in another post). Since both these names were unfamiliar to me I asked her if it would be possible to have a wee taste? She nods again and promptly gets a 20ml pour from her counter. As luck would have it they were promoting (minus the fanfare I must add) these two single malts and hence were available for tasting.
I vividly remember smelling and tasting Old Pulteney. Back then my whisky sensibilities were not as evolved as they are today, having been largely brought up on a staple diet of livets, fiddichs and glemos. But despite the immaturity I could immediately sense that this was different. It was unlike anything I had smelt and tasted before. There was an explosion in my mouth of sweet toffee, fruity, malty notes followed by a distinctly salty aftertaste. And I go hang on, salt in whisky? I double checked with the store lady and she nods yet again confirming that my palate had not gone bonkers and that there is indeed a salty (maritime) quality to this single malt. This was a new dimension which I had previously not experienced.
Old Pulteney comes from northern port of Wick which was known for its herring trade. Distilleries in close proximity to the sea often display coastal characteristics in their whiskies like salt/brine, iodine, sea spray, etc. Whiskies from Islay as well as Island display this more frequently. And it's not just the location but also due to the use of coastal peat in their maltings. But to find this maritime quality in an unpeated malt was unusual. I was sold and as if I needed any more convincing she offered a £5 discount if I bought two bottles which I promptly did. In all I think I paid £48 for two bottles. I thank that lady at the store eternally each time I have an Old Pulteney. May god bless her!
Old Pulteney 17yr old @46%
Sample kindly provided by Hormuz Aderianwalla
Wood-American and Spanish Oak
Non-chill filtered |Caramel added
Nose: Marzipan, vanilla pods, boiled peanuts followed by mild ginger and bananas. Some floral notes soon follow. With a little time it gets more nutty and biscuity. Very interesting. Lemon meringue, white chocolate, toffee, breakfast porridge. A very light touch of smoke like an empty cigarette pack. Water brings out the fruitier side with orange oils, sweet lime juice and boiled confectionery. All very restrained and elegant.
Palate: Act I-Lemon meringue topped with caramel and sea salt. Yummy. Honey laced with white pepper. Shortcrust pastry. Oak vanillins clearly exerting influence. Oily and waxy. Act II- Dry spices and apricots, a touch of varnish, freshly rolled cigars. It gets a little herbal and citrus as well, green tamarind leaves, liquorice and some tannins. Water amplifies the classic Old Pulteney salt and makes it malty; constantly evolving and getting more complex with time.
After 20 mins Intensely sweet and fruity. Dare I say like an entire fruit orchid in the glass. Superbly balanced by the salty, nutty notes. Delicious! The morning after, orange marmalade with dry rosemary. All you need is a buttered toast.
Finish: Long, fruity and lemony.
Impressions: A superb whisky and a great example of the house style. While the 12 yr old is a very good introduction to this style, this one takes it to another level of refinement and poise. Gentle and yet expressive especially if given some time. Even the classic Old Pulteney salt was a lot more restrained here than in its younger sibling. I loved the harmony between the casks and the distillate, each one complementing the other, in a romantic ménage à trois if you will. I usually care two hoots for awards but this one rightfully deserves all the accolades it has received. It was moderately priced as well at £68 before being discontinued. They now have a new core range with 12,15 and 18yr old expressions which I believe has received lukewarm response. I can see some online shops like TWE and BBR still have stock of the 17yr old. Go grab.