My alarm went off at 6:05, and after a mere five hours sleep – far short of the eight I so desperately need – I was greeted by an incredibly mediocre May morning. Normally this would all add up to one very unhappy, if not downright moody, Martin: but not today. Ahead of me lay three days of good whisky, good food, and, as fortune had it, exceptionally good company! A little while ago I was invited by Lucas (of Edinburgh Whisky Blog fame) and the folk at International Beverage to join a crack team of whisky fanatics. The team’s mission was simple – sharpen our pens, clean the lenses of our cameras, and prepare sniff and taste our way through four distilleries in three days. Game on. In the end our cheery little crew consisted of my good self, Marc Pendlebury (whiskybrother.com), Peter Lemon (thecasks.com), Ruben Luyten (whiskynotes.be), Darren Rook (thewhiskyguy.co.uk), and Evgeny Kuzminykh (classicdram.com).
After flying to Wick, the trip started with a visit to Old Pulteney. Particularly fanatical readers may remember my previous reviews of Old Pulteney 12 y.o. and Good Hope; less dedicated consumers of my nonsense may wish to take a moment to catch up. Or not, it’s up to you, really, but I’m not going to repeat history nor tasting notes already available in older posts – so you have only yourself to blame for a potentially less than optimal reading experience. Now, our tour started as any tour should – with a drink! If memory serves me right it was their 12 year old expression that we were served at that point, but don’t quote me on that.
This was soon followed by a very pleasant tour of the distillery led by distillery manager Malcolm Waring (who you can see below, about to offer a taste of the Old Pulteney wash to Peter).
I’ve attached a couple of photos for your viewing pleasure – you will have to excuse their somewhat lacking quality; a result of difficult lighting, limited time and my completely absent photography skills. One of the most interesting aspects of the tour came in the form of yeast. It may not sound particularly fascinating, but fact is that out of the four distilleries we visited Old Pulteney was the only one to still use dry (as opposed to liquid) yeast. As with any visit, though, the absolute highlight was our visit to a couple of their warehouses – there is nothing quite like entering a whisky warehouse, as you are immediately hit by the cool, moist air, and your lungs fill with the sweet scents of thousands upon thousands of liters of maturing whisky.
At the end of the tour we had the pleasure of trying four whiskies: 17, 21 and 30 year olds as well as a 14 year old 1997 single bourbon barrel. In the interest of keeping this post at a reasonable length I’ll just give you tasting notes for now, and may come back to do more elaborate reviews at some later date.
Nose: Banana, exotic fruits, peach marmalade.
Palate: Full and oily, vanilla, marmalade again but I’d say it’s more apricot than peach on the palate, with a lingering vanilla finish.
Nose: Toffee, sweet red apple juice, some banana, sherbert.
Palate: More intense vanilla flavor than the 17, ginger spiciness, toffee, the banana is still there but still not as pronounced as the 17. The finish starts out with sweet vanilla but quickly moves into peppery ginger paste.
Nose: More reminiscent of the 17 than the 21, but more intense – the peach marmalade is there but made from slightly less ripe fruit, less vanilla, very pronounced fresh cloudberries, tropical fruits.
Palate: Starts out presenting apples and vanilla, moves into cloudberry and elderflower wine.
1997 Bourbon cask
Nose: Vanilla, green apple juice, molten brown sugar, and – I have to be honest here and accredit this last note, which I think is spot on, to Marc of Whiskybrother.com – warm, buttered banana bread.
Palate: Somehow these notes got lost! If memory serves me right, however, it was very similar on the palate to the nose, with the addition of some of that peppery spice from the 21 year old, and with a quite salty/briny finish.
My personal favorite out of the lot was, without much doubt, the 17 year old – while I respect Jim Murray’s opinion as much as the next man, I definitely think he chose the wrong sibling this time around, not least as it’s something like $46 cheaper! With that said, I enjoyed them all thoroughly.