Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have just tried > Old Pulteney 21 years old

The news story of this week has seen Old Pulteney gain a major accolade for its 21 years old expression. It was named as World Whisky of the Year in the latest edition of the Jim Murray Whisky Bible. The 2012 edition is the 9th version of the book, in which whisky expert Jim Murray samples a staggering 1,500 new whiskies in an intense four month period each year.  The 21 years old topped this years list with a record equaling 97.5 out of 100.  Jim Murray has a strict set of criteria that he follows with each whisky he samples and whiskies have to be exceptional to get marks in the high 80s or early 90s.  In the nine years of the book, Old Pulteney is only the second Scottish distillery to land this prestigious accolade.

The Old Pulteney distillery, or simply Pulteney as the locals call it, is the most northerly mainland distillery in Scotland. Located in the Highland fishing town of Wick, it lies just 15 miles south of the UK's most northerly point of John O'Groats. Old Pulteney is currently owned by Inver House Distillers, which is part of the larger Thai group InBev, and has a production capacity of three million litres a year. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson and was named after Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, the herring industry's leading light of the day. It is one of the few distilleries to be named after a person.

Last year we were lucky enough to pay a visit to the distillery and for more information about Pulteney - click here to read our report. Their core range consists of a 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old. The brand has grown massively in the last three years and this has seen Old Pulteney climb into the top 20 for world sales of single malts. This 21 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and has the highest percentage of sherry cask maturation of any whisky in their core range - 30% has been matured in ex-fino sherry casks, with the other 70% matured in re-fill ex-bourbon casks. The recent new re-branded packaging is pictured above.

Our tasting notes
The award seems the perfect time to re-visit a sample that we have at home and construct some more detailed tasting notes than we have offered before.  So, here goes ...

The colour is golden amber and the nose is packed with lovely aromas - something nutty (think of almonds), vanilla, oatcakes, crisp red apples, dried fruits and caramel (the combination of the last two is reminiscent of toffee apples). Other aromas are less prominent and appear with increased time in the glass, especially hints of ripe banana and malty cereals.  On the palate, this is drier than expected and is packed with oak, cinnamon and nutmeg notes initially. It feels buttery and creamy in the mouth with pleasant toffee-like sweetness complimenting the wood spices of earlier.  The dried fruitiness from the nose is also present, with notes of sultana particularly evident, along with further elements of almonds, vanilla, burnt sugar and a hint of saltiness that cuts through the richness to give balance. The finish is again dry and delicious, if not slightly short, and becomes saltier as the flavours disappear.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely whisky and one that deserves to be in the spotlight, although only the individual whisky drinker can judge whether it is the World Whisky of the Year for them.  Naturally to come to this conclusion, the whisky has to be to your taste and style.  What this exposure will do is bring not just the 21 years old, but the distillery and its single malt range to a far wider audience.  This can only be a good thing and it is deserved as Pulteney has long been an under-rated or overlooked distillery. If you get the chance to try it, then we highly recommend that you do.

We would like to take this opportunity to send our congratulations to Malcolm Waring, the Distillery Manager at Pulteney, and those people that we know at Inver House on this great award.  We raise a glass to you all.

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