Old Pulteney 21 y.o. Review

Old Pulteney 21 y.o.001

46% abv

Score:  89.5/100


Sigh.  There’s such an obvious angle with which to attack this review, but I’m gonna do my best to rein that in as much as possible.  I imagine most of you know exactly what I’m talking about, so let’s just move on a wee ways and allow my senses to be the guide, and not the media shitstorm, questionable propaganda or sycophantic head-nodding.

I first tried Old Pulteney a few years back.  I’d seen our dear friend Ralfy wax poetically about it and I’d read some rather positive, if not quite glowing, reviews as well.  When I had the opportunity to sample the 12, 17 and 21 in a sitting, I jumped at the chance.  The 12…s’alright.  Youngish, but a nose ahead of most of its pre-teener Scottish contemporaries.  The 17…a wonderfully pleasant surprise and certainly my favorite of the three.  And the 21…a bit of a letdown after the wow’ing the 17 gave me, but…still nice.

Fast forward a few years (and a few hundred whisky reviews) and here we are with a glass of the OP21 in hand.  I’m happy to report back to the faithful and curious that this is indeed a pretty fine drink.  Not only that, it’s a bit better than I recall too.

Pulteney is a rather coastal Highland distillery located in Pulteneytown in Wick, Caithness, Scotland.  It’s interesting to note – and often makes for a great discussion – that though many folks out there contest the concept of ambient influence or terroir, most of the true coastal distilleries carry a somewhat briny/salty/seaswept sort of character (think Islay malts, Talisker, Highland Park, Scapa, Pulteney, etc).  Knowledgeable whisky cynics will immediately counter with the argument that some of those Islay malts with the strongest oceanic character actually mature primarily on the mainland, but…I’ll leave that debate alone for the here and now, and just get on to the whisky at hand.

This stolid old sailor was born of bourbon and sherry casks, and shows a truly flawless integration and one heckuva job of cask selection to compose this sort of harmony.  Having said that…a pleasing melody is often less sonically impressive than aural originality.  Put simply…well made, but bordering on pedestrian.  Would be a great everyday dram due to its all ’round charm and approachability though.

All in all…not a bad dram from Pulteney.  Award winner?  Certainly not.  Don’t talk stupid.  But yes…absolutely a decent dram.  Sadly, however, for we unwashed masses, the pricing scheme (at least in my neck of the woods) took a rather dramatic leap sometime between the publication of some random award or other and the present day.  Le sigh.  What can you do?

Nose:  Mildly salted and peppered pineapple.  Somewhat creamy.  Cinnamon and honey.  Lemon and orange.  Meringue.  The cleanest of very fresh hardwood.  Pears and cream.  Toasted marshmallow.  Freshly chopped almond.  Sponge toffee.  Maybe just a hint of Bird’s Custard.  Very, very nice.

Palate:  Nice delivery, if a little tart as it develops.  Some pepper at the front.  A little bit of chocolate and slivers of oak.  Leather.  Orange zest.  Salt.  Lemons and popsicle sticks.  Spiced fruit compote.  Not as impressive and instantly appealing as the nose, but still nice.

Thoughts:  Like devouring a big bowl of creamy trifle on the deck of a yacht…and being doused in sea spray.


 – Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

5 thoughts on “Old Pulteney 21 y.o. Review

  1. David

    I agree with a lot of what you say. Trying this for the first time from a sample swap with a friend.

    I definitely get first a sour cherry candy then a strawberry nibs on the nose. I also get creaminess and a hint of pineapple.

    A little light on the palate, with some alcohol on the finish.

    I added about 10 drops of water to a 15-20 cc pour. It gets “dusty” in the nose and definitely more bitter on the palate. That will probably smooth out over the next half hour…I hope.

      1. David

        I must apologize. I feel like I said something wrong. Not sure what WWOTY means. English is not my first language.

        If I gave the impression that I didn’t enjoy it, I regret this. I did like the sample I tried, and yes, after a while, it did settle down after adding the water. But I might not add any next time.

        Hope I didn’t offend…

        1. David

          Ok, I think I know what WWOTY means. And now I suspect you meant to say “not a bad dram”. And I agree it isn’t WWOTY but still enjoyable. So I think we agree.

          1. ATW Post author

            Hi, David.

            No! Not at all. You didn’t offend in the slightest. I understood you perfectly. I should have been more clear. And yes…I did mean ‘not a bad dram’.

            WWOTY = world whisky of the year.

            You’re right. I think we do agree. 😉


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