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Sunday, 10 May 2015

Old Pulteney 1990 23yo Whisky Review!

I've been sitting on some interesting samples for quite a while now, but it's time to get them out of the way. *Sigh*, what a chore!

Old Pulteney (pronounced pult-knee) distillery is located in Wick, on the North Eastern coast of Scotland, and is the most Northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. Wick is an old fishing town, and both it and the distillery were initally only accessible by sea. The fishing industry has since disappeared, but the distillery embraces this maritime history and character, naming itself 'the genuine maritime malt', and featuring a herring-fishing boat on their label.

I haven't found a great deal of that character in the 12yo, which is the only Old Pulteney I've tasted so far, falling short of the influence you'd expect in an Islay or Talisker (at least for now: most of Talisker's whisky is now matured on the mainland). In fact I found the 12yo to be very mild and basically uninteresting to my taste buds. This particular expression here, however, promises to be quite different.

The 1990 vintage was released in 2013, and being matured in Wick for that 23 years, we can expect a fair bit more maritime influence in this one. Oh, and this bottling has been matured in refill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, which previously matured an un-named heavily-peated whisky, believed to be an Islay malt. It's also been bottled at 46%, and without chill filtration or added colouring. Interesting...

The practice of maturing a normally un-peated malt in casks which previously matured a heavily-peated one is becoming a little more common, usually adding a mild peaty & smoky depth to the whisky. The new spirit itself has not been peated, of course, so there's no change to the production process, and any influence comes from the residual contents of the casks. Let's see how it goes...
Old Pulteney 1990 vintage, 23 years old, 46%, Wick, Scotland.
Bottled in 2013. Aged in refill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks which previously held un-named heavily-peated whisky. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Quite fruity, salted honey (Is that a thing? That should be a thing!), a decent bit of earthy peat adds another dimension. Stone fruit & light lemon oil, a little floral as well. The maritime influence is there, a nice, lightly salty, coastal breeze.

Texture: Light to medium. Not a great deal of mouth-feel.

Taste: Spicy, dry peat. More stone fruit and a light sweetness. A little heat, as well. I wasn't expected this level of peat influence, it's very enjoyable. Not much else happening here though.

Finish: Quite long, drying with peat & salt, spice, and a hint of biscuit-y malt. Dried fruits, malt and brine comes out towards the end.

Score: 3 out of 5.

Notes: A surprisingly peaty and spicy malt, those refill casks had a lot left to give. Not a great deal happening on the palate though, but the nose is lovely, and the finish is decent. While my experience with Old Pulteney is limited, I can't help but wonder if the casks have overpowered the spirit?

This 1990 vintage release of Old Pulteney actually won the top prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014, and was part of my Fringe Festival tasting pack from Nippy Sweetie Whiskies. I wouldn't score it that high, in fact the Kilchoman Small Batch would have won it for me (so far). Nonetheless, the Old Pulteney can still be found overseas for around the $250 mark, although I wouldn't count on finding a bottle hiding in your local.

Very impressed with the influence of those ex-heavily peated casks though! An interesting technique, let's hope we see more of it.

Cheers!