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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Single Malt Report: Old Pulteney 12 year old

Distillery: Pulteney
Ownership: Inver House
Region: Northern Highlands (Wick)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: Ex-bourbon American oak casks
Age: minimum 12 years
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Pulteneytown in Wick, Caithness, was once known for two things: herring and whisky.  Once the largest herring port in Europe, the town mostly known for its oily, salty, honeyed, malty distilled spirit.  Seems as if creamed herring doesn't sell like it used to.  But whisky certainly does!

The distillery, built in 1826, has changed hands at least six times, ultimately landing in Inver House's portfolio (along with Balblair, Speyburn, and Knockdhu).  That fun bulby bottle neck probably-not-so-coincidentally looks like their pot still with its big ol' boil ball.  Their steel washbacks are still good shape after 90+ years, and they are one of the few distilleries to use a dry yeast during fermentation.  These are the sort of factors that go into shaping their classic spirit.

In the US, the 12yr is bottled at 43%.  It's been bottled at both 40 and 43 in the UK, though currently sits at 40%.  Count me happy that we're getting the bolder stuff.

I was very lucky to score a 375mL bottle of OP12 as part of a gift pack a couple months ago.  I opened the bottle two weeks ago, it's now half full.  It has become a solid go-to during this crazy heat spell of ours.

It's color is a light gold with some slight yellow-green hues, so I doubt there's much colorant added.  The nose is very spirity, lighter on the oak up front.  Seaside and brine.  Buttercreme frosting.  Some pencil notes sneak in later on.  The palate is vanilla-first.  Then salted angel food cake.  Dry, malty, and with a touch of wood smoke.  Much sweeter on the finish.  Lots of vanilla and malt.  There's a little barrel wood with faint hints of fresh cherries and apricots.

WITH WATER (approx. 33% ABV)
Ripe apples rush into the nose.  Lots of vanillins from the American oak.  Most of the brine has been washed away.  The palate is much creamier and sweeter.  Peals of vanilla.  Wood grain.  Some sort of cream dessert wine.  It finishes woody, more vanilla.  Basically the barrel.

With water added it goes from an aperitif to a dessert (though I prefer it neat).  I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  It's very moreish and that's its key.  It won't win over fans through complexity.  But its drinkability makes for a very nice step up from Glenfiddich 12 and Glenlivet 12.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $28-$40 for 750mL (it's a steal if you can grab it for less than $30)
Rating - 83