Old Pulteney 21yo

My first opportunity to taste this whisky was at a workshop held on the Johannesburg leg of Whisky Live on the 6th November 2013. The session was called ‘The Forgotten Coast: The Whiskies of Scotland’s North-East’ and it was presented by the knowledgeable and entertaining Dave Broom.

Old Pulteney_21yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Old Pulteney 21yo, 46% ABV

Region: Highland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 21 years


The Old Pulteney distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson in Wick, a fishing village in the far north-east of Scotland, and at the height of their celebrated herring boom. The Pulteney Distillery is one of the most northerly on the British mainland.

The distillery has unique stills that defy convention to this day. The wash still, in particular, is a 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 now incorporates a bulbous neck to reflect the shape of the stills.

Similar to their 17 Year Old expression, the 21 Year Old expression marries together Old Pulteney matured in ex-bourbon casks with spirit from ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Mostly used is second fill American oak, plus some Spanish oak first fill. However, there is a higher proportion of ex-Oloroso sherry cask compared to the 17 Years Old.

Colour: Rich deep gold with thick legs.

Nose: Juicy and soft with a honeyed character, but a scented honey character. Oily and leads one with a fragrant sweetness before opening up into seaweed and salty sea spray before some marzipan wafts past.

Palate: Chewy with a creamy sweetness to it. Milk chocolate, crème caramel, American salt water taffy and spicy notes play on your tongue. Has an iconic and particularly salty palate with some pepperiness. Palate has a great depth and complexity to it, as well a great balance and smoothness.

Finish: Long with a slight saltiness and spiciness to it, and a warm heart. Slightly drying towards the end.

Overall: A lovely dram that instantly transports me to that area of Scotland. A great whisky that one really needs to sit and savour, I particularly enjoyed the salty character of the whisky and how the creamy sweetness also come out to play.

My Score: 88

Ardmore Traditional Cask

Finally back from my annual holiday and now off to the Highlands of Scotland for my next review. This time I am off to Ardmore, which means ‘big headland’ in Gaelic. They are located at the edge of the Grampian mountains and they were founded in 1898 Adam Teacher.

Ardmore_Traditional Cask _NAS_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Ardmore Traditional Cask, 46% ABV

Region: Highland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS


As stated earlier, Ardmore was founded in 1898, during one of the industry booms that occurred at the end of the 19th century. The Ardmore whisky distillery still has its own cooperage for the production and repair of casks. They are, apparently, now the only Highland distillery that insists on fully peating their standard malt. Most put the PPM at between 12 and 14. Most of the whisky the distillery produces is still reserved for the Teacher’s blends.

The ‘Traditional Cask’ is double fermented, first in the usual oak casks but then for a second time in much smaller hand crafted “Quarter Casks”. These smaller casks were fairly common a hundred years ago but have been largely ignored due to their high cost of construction. This intense secondary maturation gives the deeper flavour that their whisky is known for.

Colour: Bright deep gold with medium to thick legs.

Nose: Seaside character of salt and seaweed, but not overtly so. There is also a vanilla and cream sweet spiciness about it. Clean and fresh with a herbal and baked sweet pie/bread character. Some of that lovely peaty smokiness is around in the background always, but not in an overt or overpowering manner.

Palate: after an initial hot and ginger spicy burst on your tongue it tapers off to some sweet wood spice, creamy vanilla sweetness and a lovely gentle peaty smokiness that coats your tongue and mouth. Like the nose, the palate is clean and fresh, with a lovely mix between the smoke and sweet characters.

Finish: Medium and warm with subdued lingering spiciness and soft smokiness with sweetish end.

Overall: If you are used to typical Islay peated malts, then this is an interesting variation to try. It has the smokiness that would expect from a peated malt, but it is a gentle and background smoke that intermingles quite nicely with the sweet characters.

My Score: 82