2006 Old Pulteney, BBR Exclusive Cask, Highland, Single Malt Scotch Whisky (53%)
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Old Pulteney Distillery, Highlands
Established in 1826 in Wick, Pulteney Distillery is the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland and at that time was only accessible by sea. The barley was brought in by sea, the whisky shipped out by boat and many of the distillery workers were also employed as fishermen.
During the years of maturation, Old Pulteney absorbs the sea breeze shaping its distinct flavour. The heritage of Wick is strongly portrayed in the presentation of Old Pulteney. The distinctive still shaped bottle is screen printed with a traditional Wick herring drifter. These boats were used to catch herring at the beginning of the 19th century. An ancient map of the north of Scotland is printed on the inside, pinpointing Pulteney Distillery.
The distillery is named after an old estate in the Southern part of the city of Wick, Pulteney town. The founding Henderson family kept ownership of the distillery until the mid 1920's, when it was bought by James Wartson, owner of Parkmore and Ord.
The current owners, the Inver House company bought both Balblair and Pulteney distilleries in 1995. Pulteney's signature single malt is known as Old Pulteney, characterised by a vividly fresh, dry, salty tang.
The majority of the production is destined for the blends of Inver House such as MacArthur's and Pinwinnie Royal, and for the Heather Cream whisky liqueur.
Maybe because it is the largest geographical area, the Highlands is also the hardest Whisky region to pin down stylistically. For this reason it is easiest not to consider the Highlands as one large are, but as 4 smaller and much more distinct ones.
North-Highland malts tend to be light bodied, delicate whiskies with complex aromas and a dryish finish sometimes spicy, sometimes with a trace of salt. Northern Highland distilleries are almost all coastal. The most northerly is Old Pulteney, situated about as far north as you can go in Wick, which produces a delicious, fragrant, dry whisky.
Working south along the route of the A9, next comes Clynelish at Brora (built in 1969, beside an earlier distillery who’s whiskies are known as Brora) - a sophisticated and complex whisky older expressions are very highly regarded and the malt deserves to be better known. Perhaps the reason that it is rarely seen as a distillery bottling is that it’s malt is a key component of Johnnie Walker.
The best known of all the Northern Highland malts is Glenmorangie. Glenmorangie, is made at Tain on the Cromarty Firth, and is the most popular malt in Scotland. Over the last decade Glenmorangie pioneered the now often copied process of wood finishing. Althoght this process is not universally popular; it transformed the company’s commercial success.
The Eastern Highlands produce a number of whiskies that can be confused with those of Speyside. In the north of the region close to the southern border of Speyside, whiskies which are smooth, sometimes with a little smoke, malty-sweet, such as Macduff, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Knockdhu are made.
Further south is Fettercairn, and Glencadam, at Brechin, which produces an unusual creamy, fruity malt. The area between the Moray and the Tay has two distilleries of note; Royal Lochnagar and Glendronach. The first is a wonderfully smooth, rich whisky made in the shadow of the mountain of the same name in a distillery established in 1825 The second is also luscious and often sherried.
In the Western Highlands there only two distilleries on the mainland those of Oban and Ben Nevis. Oban is a perfect, sheltered harbour makes it the principal seaport for the Isles and the capital of the West Highlands. Its whisky has a misty, briny character, with a background of heather and peat.
The Oban whisky stills used are among the smallest in Scotland; the cramped nature of the site is attested to by the odd position of the worm tubs, fed by unusually short lyne arms, and nestled in the ‘vee’ between the roofs of the still house and an adjoining building.
The whiskies of the Central Highlands are a mixed bag. Generally they are lighter-bodied and sweeter that their cousins to the east, but not as sweet as Speysides.
The Central Highland single malts used to be known as 'Perthshire Whiskies'. Most are found along the valleys of the Tay and its tributaries. The furthest north is Dalwhinnie, which is almost in Speyside indeed; it is at the very head of the river, over sixty miles from Grantown-on-Spey.
Blair Athol and Edradour whisky distilleries are both near Pitlochrie. The former was founded in the 1790s and was substantially rebuilt in 1949 Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland - a happy survivor of the days of 'farm distilleries' - yet produces a clean, fresh, attractive and justly popular whisky.
South again is Aberfeldy distillery, on the edge of the pretty town of the same name. Glenturret, at Crieff is one of the claimants to being the oldest distillery, although it was dismantled in the 1920s and is much changed.
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This is an absolutely archetypal Old Pulteney on the nose, with sweet spice and warm barley. The palate deftly hints at the frigid North Sea – just a stone’s throw from the distillery in Wick – with touches of saline freshness contrasting nicely with the juicy ex-Bourbon oak. Citrus peels, marzipan and buttery biscuits appear on the palate, whilst the finish is respectably long, coating the mouth lusciously. Give it 15 minutes in the glass to breathe and, perhaps, add a couple of drops of cool water.
Rob Whitehead, Spirits Buyer, Berry Bros. & Rudd (Feb 2021)
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