By Father John Rayls
The Old Pulteney Distillery was the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland until a new distillery appeared a little further north in 2012. However, the new distillery is dwarfed in size and volume by Old Pulteney. It is a Highland malt and greatly reflects the influence of the nearby sea. It was first established in 1826 and was originally only accessible by sea. Much has changed in the last 190 years. Let that last number sink in for a moment. It is no longer isolated, but is still producing some very interesting and excellent scotch. The distillery prides itself on using techniques and stills that other distilleries abandoned long ago. Using large boil-bulbs and lyne arms, Old Pulteney Distillery produces a whisky somewhat unique in its unmistakeable sea salt flavor profile. They age this whisky for 12 years in ex-bourbon casks where it can be influenced by the erratic North Atlantic winds and weather.
The appearance is a combination of orange tinted medium brown colors taking on a rich Kentucky tobacco leaf color as it dries in the barn. The bottle is reminiscent of the still itself. It’s unusual and attractive at the same time. The legs are long and drain consistently and evenly around the glass. The nose is light, but not difficult to detect with a total absence of alcohol burn. There are notes of light honey smoke with salted caramel nuts and some very light vanilla. There is a very satisfying creamy mouthfeel. Most of the flavor profile is mid-mouth and almost makes it to the tip of the tongue. It brings to mind a Payday candy bar on the tongue only not nearly as sweet. It’s salty, nutty and comes with a caramel base with light spice. At 86 proof, it drinks like a much bigger whisky. As primarily a bourbon drinker, I’m surprised to say this could become a regular “go to” for me. The finish is medium to long and changes from a salty caramel cinnamon profile into a light oak pepper finish. This would be an excellent scotch to help “newbies” join in, but is interesting enough to grab the attention of more experienced consumers.
I found Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky sitting on the shelf of my favorite local retailer. It was a new offering listed at under $40.00 and Daniel, the manager, suggested I give it a try. This was a very pleasant surprise. Scotch in this price range is often a blend and considered a bottom shelf offering. However, I found it to be right in my “wheel house” and well worth the money. Try it with some open-minded friends and you may be greatly surprised.