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.
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