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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Old Pulteney Navigator (blind tasting)

The first whisky of the blind tasting was Old Pulteney 12 year old.
The second whisky was Old Pulteney WK 217 Spectrum.
The third whisky was Old Pulteney Clipper Commemorative Edition.
And then there was Old Pulteney Navigator.
This whisky confuses me. The official website lists it as a limited edition release, but it's been around for four years, and the company never announced a bottle count. The site also says the whisky was "inspired by the intrepid maritime adventure in the 13-14 Clipper Race", but that's the same thing they said about the Clipper Commemorative Edition. The Clipper edition, which I reviewed yesterday, was also a limited edition but its bottle count number was publicized. To make things even cloudier, these whiskies were released less than ten months apart. Navigator (2013) was released before Clipper (2014), yet Navigator is still being bottled—for instance, my bottle was from June 2016—and, as mentioned at the start, is listed by the company as a limited edition. So, what exactly qualifies as a limited edition nowadays?

Distillery: Pulteney
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands (Wick)
Type: Single Malt
Maturation: "Bourbon and Sherry Casks" per the tube
Age: NAS
Bottled: 2016
Bottling code: L16/178 R16/5182 I8 13:05
Limited Bottling: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? ???
Colored? ???
(DISCLOSURE: This was one of the bottles that Amy from Ten27 Communications had sent me recently (thanks, Amy!).)

Its color is the second lightest of the group, sort of a light gold. This nose is......active. Ham, deep fryer oil, yeast and Romano cheese. There are hints of orange candy and toffee, as well as something metallic and industrial. A little more barley slips in, with time in the glass. The palate is loaded with cinnamon, carpet and rye new make. Toasted wheat bread. Hints of caramel sauce and umami. It grows sweeter with time until it's much too sweet. It finishes with cinnamon and salt. Barley. Toast. The sweetness issue shows up here as well.

There's another glass of Navigator in my hand right now. As I smell and taste it in very different (non-blind) circumstances, I'm finding that cheese note to be overwhelming. It's the largest thing happening in the nose and it's blocking most other notes from showing up. The palate has a sharpness and hotness to it that I didn't notice before. On the positive side, there's a definite lack of oak.

I like hot mess whiskies, but this one doesn't work for me. Like the Clipper, Navigator is young stuff, but there's something dearly out of whack to it. Unlike Clipper, it doesn't present a united front. A bunch of things misfire simultaneously. The good news is that OP doesn't try to paper over all of it with a bunch of new oak, like most other distilleries (in many countries) are doing right now. So I do respect them for that. But if the Clipper and Navigator are on the shelf, I'd go with the Clipper.

Availability - Many specialty retailers worldwide
Pricing - Japan, Europe and US: $45-$65
Rating - 77