Category Archives: Old Pulteney

Old Pulteney 8 y.o. (G&M) Review

Old Pulteney 8 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  79/100


The most important thing I’ll ever say on ATW: whisky is about the stories.

Think about that for a moment.

It’s a drink that is built on stories that are years and decades and centuries old.  It’s a drink that is shared along the way to making memories and future stories with friends.  It’s a drink wherein the very fabric of its being is rooted in time.  And the passage of time – especially for an aged spirit like this – is where stories are born, live and grow.

This indie Pulteney from the good people at Gordon & MacPhail is a malt that has now become a piece of my story.  I love that.  The whisky itself?  Meh.  Not so great.  But that’s beside the point.  What matters is it that it takes me places.

That may seem counter to conventional thought, aye?  When you spend money you want good return on your outlay.  Completely logical.  But sometimes you take a leap of faith on something because the price is right (and it was for this one) and because circumstances dictate (which they did).

When a few of the good guys were over on Islay this past September one of the lads saw this bottle sitting bottom shelf in the Co-op in Bowmore.  It was intriguing enough that he cleared a little furrow in his bag just big enough to mule this guy home with him.  The packaging was retro and charming…the distillery one we typically like…the bottler one whose reputation is beyond repute…and quite frankly…it was a bottle we wouldn’t see back home.  It didn’t end up getting cracked open until a couple months later, but it’s since been passed around and shared with many more folks than just the initial contingent who were there when it was purchased.  And that becomes part of the story too.

Am I getting a little too cheesy here?  Probably for some.  Such is.

Nose:  A light nose.  Approachable and actually quite charming, straight off.  Faint hint of bubblegum.  Playdough.  Red berries.  Slightly perfumed.  Vaguely malty.  Uber light.  Not much more.  Higher strength may have helped.

Palate:  Ok, not sure what happened here.  Clayish.  Very flat.  Almost bittering.  Like under-ripe cranberries.  A bit cardboardy. In spite of the notes here…it’s not bad.  Just…not great.

Thoughts:  Very little in the way of balance.  Would score higher if on the nose alone.  But…holds a bit of a sweet spot in my heart nonetheless.


– Images & Words:  Curt

Old Pulteney 17 y.o. Review

Old Pulteney 17 y.o.076

46% abv

Score:  88/100


A couple years back when Old Pulteney 21 was declared Jim Murray’s whisky of the year, I said it was (in my opinion) somewhat inferior to the 17 year old.  Here we are now, a couple years down the line, and I have to say that the latest releases of 21 are actually now better than the 17.  More in line with the way it should be, really, especially recognizing the premium that has been levied on Pulteney since the award of said distinguished title.  We’ve seen the 21 year old expression increase by at least a couple dozen dollars in the past year or two.  The quality…meh.  It’s still in the ballpark of where it was back then.

Pulteney is one of the Northernmost Highland distilleries in Scotland.  And while the distillery doesn’t necessarily have warehouse walls that are being battered by the sea, it does actually produce a malt that stands out a little from the pack, bearing as it does, a rather pronounced coastal influence.  Similar in some respects, I suppose, to Bunnahabhain or Scapa or something for bringing the briny, oceanic side to the bottle sans the hefty peat influence that we normally find in parallel with that profile (let’s face it…the briniest buggers are from Islay).  It’s also a malt that has found favour among the old school cognoscenti.

This latest 17 year old?  Good stuff.  Well worth having a bottle around when the price looks right.  Do note though, that it is not the same 17 as a few years back.

Nose:  Salty and coastal, as most have noted when it comes to Pulteney.  A slight putty note.  Roman nougat.  Reminiscent of almond paste, or Indian sweets.  Almost a distant smokiness.  Cream of wheat.  Lemon zest.  Is that caramelized pineapple?

Palate:  Still getting that smoky note.  And waxy.  A touch of lime.  Oak.  Orange, pear and a little apple.  Black currants.  Very old school and appealing palate.

Thoughts:  Not as strong an outing as the Pulteney 17 of a couple years back, but a great whisky nevertheless.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

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