Tag Archives: Old Pulteney

Old Pulteney 2006, 1 litre (Travel Retail)

Bought: World of Whisky, 2nd October 2019

91/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky
83.15/100 – Whiskybase (average from 29 member votes)

In recent years I’ve found it increasing hard to find interesting whisky at airports. The shelves always seem to contain fairly generic, predictable stock, the bulk of which is NAS (no age statement), which suppliers can churn out year after year. If it has an age statement on it like 10yrs, 12yrs, etc., you can probably find it elsewhere. The words ‘travel retail exclusive’ rarely ring true. All these bottles are very reproducible. It was time to find something different. Enter the Old Pulteney (OP) 2006.

Although strictly speaking the OP 2006 is NAS, it’s bottled on the 22nd January 2019. This means it’s a 12yo (unless it was distilled between 1st – 21st Jan 2006, which would make it a 13yo). At just over £50 for 100cl, does this 12yo really hold water against the standard 12yo often sold for £25? Absolutely. Not only is the 2006 unique in comparison because of its stated distillation year but it’s also 46% compared to the 40% of the standard 12yo.

William of ‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ rates the OP 2006 a fantastic 91/100. He criticises some reviewers for underrating this malt and concludes with “this is an outstanding example of a whisky of this age and the cask type used in its maturation”. Other comments online include “an interesting and solid “under the radar” whisky”, “a very good young bourbon malt…..straightforward and simple, but with a dense and rich taste” and “Old Pulteney never let you down, they are always consistent. If you are a fan then this won’t disappoint”.

Old Pulteney 12-year-old (new style from 2018)

Bought: Sainsbury’s, 23rd October 2019

83/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com – his review below)
81.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 62 member votes)

Reliable, consistent, born by the sea and a true Scot. But enough about me, let’s talk about the revamped Old Pulteney 12yo (OP12). It’s taken me a while to blog about the new OP12yo because there’s not much to say about it. It’s basically the pre-2018 version in a square box. Nevertheless there will be some people that say the whisky has changed, and indeed in some ways it will always change because of batch variations. But there’s no big difference, really. The OP12 remains true to its coastal Highland roots, with a quality whisky at a very pocket-friendly price.

It seems human nature to say things were better in the past, and you see this quite a lot in the world of whisky. It’s therefore a bit of a surprise that this new version of the OP12 scores 81.5/100 on Whiskybase compared to 80.8/100 (from 820 votes) for the previous version. It’s a marginal difference but surely the new square box isn’t the magic ingredient? Personally I preferred the previous oval-shaped tube. The new presentation is like sticking whisky in a Ford Escort from the 1980s. You might as well give the box some padded shoulders and be done with it.

Comments online include “I was pleasantly surprised by the density and sweet tones”, “this has become my go-to whisky. Such a smooth easy drink. Amazing!”, “very good single malt. Well rounded. Good value as well.” and ,“for the price a great dram every now and then to ground your taste buds”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Honeycomb, vanilla tablet, soft sawdust oakiness and oatcakes.

Palate: Chocolate peanuts, mint, citrus peels, maritime elements and white pepper.

Finish: Toffee, brine and lemon.

Here’s Ralfy with his thoughts about the OP12 (YouTube, Aug 2019):

Old Pulteney 2006 11-year-old (Cadenhead)

Bought: Cadenhead, 5th December 2017

84.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

When you look at Old Pulteney (OP) in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2018’ you realise how rare it is to see independent bottlings from this illustrious distillery. In fact Mr Murray only mentions Cadenhead and Gordon & MacPhail. Of these only the two bottles by Cadenhead are cask strength. The distillery itself rarely releases a whisky that hasn’t been diluted down. But if you’re a fan of a particular distillery it doesn’t take long before you want to try the raw liquid straight from the barrel. And as a fan of OP, this 11yo by Cadenhead gives me my change to do just that. It’s Old Pulteney au naturale.

My OP 11yo is made from a combination of two hogshead casks distilled in 2006 and bottled at 55.8% in 2017. It comes from ex-bourbon barrels, which is the standard wood used by the distillery. 570 bottles were produced. Although Jim Murray doesn’t review this particular dram he scores a similar Cadenhead 2006 11yo a very respectable 87/100. This was also an ex-bourbon hogshead but only one barrel was used to produce 294 bottles. It scores 82.39/100 on Whiskybase from 25 votes. My 11yo scores a fantastic 84.78/100 from 11 votes so far, which suggests a marginally better dram.

Cadenhead release cask strength Old Pulteney quite regularly so if it’s something you’re interested in then keep an eye on their website. My 11yo was bottled in 2017 but Cadenhead have already bottled two OP 12yo cask strengths in 2018 (one of which is still available on their website for £54.30 from a run of only 282 bottles, so cask strength AND single cask).

Tasting notes by Cadenhead:

Nose: Toffee popcorn, cereals, barley sugar, developing rich notes with this coastal dram. The nose is great now into the palate!
Palate: The palate is driving in some incredible richness with some fresh ground black pepper, haggis crisps, cardamon pod. We also find a sweet note after this dram is left to open in the glass.
Finish: The finish is really good with a hint of red liquorice, banana loaf and marshmallow, the finish coats the palate with a lingering sweetness before the spicy mid note on the palate comes back in for a few moments.

Old Pulteney 12-year-old (old style 2000-07)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 7th June 2016

84/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
80/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 5 maniac votes)
80.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

This older style version of the Old Pulteney (OP) 12yo is sometimes classified as 1990s at auction but Malt Maniacs and Whiskybase list it as a bottling from 2000 onward. The next version is listed as 2007, which is where I get the date range for this classic single malt. Older doesn’t always mean better, which seems to be the case for this OP. In the Whisky Bible 2016 the latest OP 12yo scores 90.5/100 but back in 2006 my vintage bottle scored a less impressive 84/100. Nevertheless this is still “good whisky worth buying” and the author Jim Murray says “much changed from the last bottling, with greater emphasis on brown sugar sweetness and spice: still duller than one might expect.” There’s no use of the word “dull” in Mr Murray’s review of the latest OP 12yo, which he classifies as “brilliant”.

I bought this bottle of OP 12yo because Old Pulteney is a family favourite. I also wasn’t drinking whisky between 2000 and 2007 so I feel I’ve missed out. Scoring 80.33/100 on Whiskybase is a point less than the 81.39/100 for the latest OP 12yo but still a good score. The new bottling has 313 votes compared to only 3 for my auction purchase, which makes it feel quite unique and exclusive. That’s one of the pleasures of acquiring older, discontinued whisky, as the chance to taste it becomes increasingly rare.

Old Pulteney 12yo 2000s 70cl

Old Pulteney ‘Spectrum’ WK217

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2016

88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
85.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

Appearing in 2012, the Spectrum was the final release of three Old Pulteneys for Travel Retail named after extraordinary boats. Here are the three with their ratings from Whiskybase:

  • 85.22/100 – Spectrum, 2012 (average from 34 member votes)
  • 82.17/100 – Isabella Fortuna, 2011 (average from 62 member votes)
  • 80.29/100 – Good Hope, 2010 (average from 37 member votes)

There was a stronger version (52% instead of 46%) of Isabella Fortuna that came out in 2009 which scores 85.37/100 from 54 member votes, so very similar in ranking to the Spectrum. The standard 12yo scores 81.33/100 from 283 votes to give a point of reference.

It seems the Spectrum was the best boat out of the three, which is reinforced by Jim Murray’s score in his Whisky Bible 2016. The Spectrum first appeared in the 2013 issue where Mr Murray says of the taste “the delivery reveals unusual youthfulness, amply balanced by a more impressive saline contour which hits you like sea spray in the face: a rare eruption of flavour in a sensual experience.” 88.5/100 classifies this single malt as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying.”

Tasting notes from Whiskybase include “malty and fruity aroma, heather honey, mango, oat porridge, cinnamon, prunes, peat and toffee. Vanilla sweet taste, sweet mustard, pepper, grapefruit marmalade, bitter herbs and malt. Medium long, malty, fruity and herbal end.”

Old Pulteney Spectrum WK217 100cl

Old Pulteney ‘Noss Head’

Bought: World Duty Free, 31st March 2015

84/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)

If I’m honest with myself, Old Pulteney is forming a collection within my collection. Not only is it an old family favourite but my small addiction is boosted by the fact that the 17yo and 21yo Old Pulteneys are considered two of the best whiskies in the world. The 12yo is also highly regarded, very affordable, and recommended to old and new whisky drinkers alike.

With more and more Scottish distilleries replacing their best selling 10 and 12-year-olds with non-aged statements (NAS) you have to wonder how long before we see the demise of the Old Pulteney 12yo. Already the distillery is slipping in NAS bottlings, of which the Noss Head is an example. One review on Whiskybase mentioned its youthfulness (typical of a NAS versus what they’ve replaced) but at least the distillery has had the good sense to make it 46%. A bit more strength can sometimes be useful to mask immaturity. I’m a big kid, but you’d probably not notice after consuming 5 glasses of Noss Head! 🙂

84/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible might seem quite low but it’s at the top of the range of ‘good whisky worth trying’. Aberdeen airport were selling a very buyer-friendly 35cl although it’s normally sold as a 1ltr, and easily available online. Jim Murray states “the nose and delivery is about as fine a display of citrus maltiness as you’ll fine” but he detects a bitterness in the finish he’s not very keen on. Contrasting that, a reviewer on Whiskybase describes the finish as “not bitter at all”. Whose right? Time to try it and see.

Old Pulteney Noss Head NAS 35cl

Old Pulteney 17-year-old

Bought: Whisky Galore, 6th March 2015

95/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
87.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 105 member votes)
91/100 – Ralfy – His review on You Tube here (March 2012)

Scoring over 87/100 on Whiskybase, 95/100 in the Whisky Bible, and 91/100 from Ralfy, I don’t know whether to drink this whisky or worship it. Michael McIntyre would have us believe that when we look at something on Amazon we always want to read the 1 star “it slapped my wife” reviews. Of the 5 reviews on Amazon for the Old Pulteney 17yo, four give it 5/5 and one gives it 4/5 with the comment “wonderful”. Try as I might, I can’t find a bad word said against this whisky. And believe me, I’ve tried!

So, it comes as no surprise that I’ve been after this whisky for a while. I first spotted it in the book ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’ by Ian Buxton. He includes the 17yo instead of the 21yo because he considers the latter “just a trifle over-aged”. He feels the 17yo offers the best combination of taste, maturity and value in the Old Pulteney range.

Scoring 95/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this Old Pulteney as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. It scores a perfect 25/25 for taste where the author, Jim Murray says “one of the softest, most beautifully crafted deliveries in the whisky world. Absolutely faultless.”

Old Pulteney 17yo 70cl

Old Pulteney 8-year-old 100 Proof (57%)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015

88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

Back in the 2006 edition of the Whisky Bible, the Gordon & MacPhail release of the Old Pulteney 8yo scored 85/100 but it hasn’t been mentioned in recent years (even though you can still purchase it online). That was the 40% version but I have the vintage (or ‘retro’) 57% from the 1980s. If I’d realised how well loved it was on Whiskybase (88/100 is a fantastic score) I would have attempted to get a bigger sample than a miniature! Aaaah, except a 70cl is quoted with a price of £237.60! My miniature was closer to the 60p than the £237.

The only written review on Whiskybase for this bottling summarises with “an intense Old Pulteney from the past” having said of the taste “hot and spicy (pepper). Oily and creamy. Fruity in particular oranges and tangerines. Slightly peaty ” For those of you familiar with Old Pulteney, there are some classic elements showing through in this potent blast from the past.

Although I have quite a few examples of Old Pulteney, this is my first experience of one over 50%. The Whiskybase rating has convinced me to add a ‘cask strength’ Old Pulteney to my wishlist. Is there one out there I wonder? The hunt is on….

Old Pulteney 100 Proof 8yo 5cl

Old Pulteney 21-year-old

Bought: Drink Supermarket, 4th December 2014

97.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
87.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 69 member votes)
9/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video below)

I bought this bottle of Old Pulteney 21yo on Black Friday when Drink Supermarket was offering 20% off their normal prices. Fantastic news you might think but it almost killed my interest in buying whisky thereafter. Whisky is expensive stuff, so when you can get it for less you don’t want to pay full price again, if you can avoid it. Unfortunately, only buying whisky on one discount day per year isn’t an option my addiction will allow.

Like the Ardbeg Uigeadail I last blogged about, the Old Pulteney 21yo is one of those rare whiskies that scores top marks in the Whisky Bible. Jim Murray’s review dates back to 2012 where he gives the nose full marks of 25/25. The taste scores highly too with the comment “nerve-tingling journey of barley at varying intensity and then a slow but magnificently complete delivery of spice.” The Bible concludes with “absolutely exploding from the glass with vitality, charisma and class”.

The Old Pulteney 21yo was awarded “World Whisky of the Year” in the Whisky Bible 2012, which instantly set it up to be shot down. I’ve read several reviews that say “not the best whisky I’ve tasted” but that’s hardly surprising. It’s like being told you’re about to see the funniest comedian in the world so the instant reaction is “go on then, make me laugh!” But there’s no denying the quality of this single malt. A whisky no collection should be without, or an enthusiast should fail to try.

Here’s Jo of ‘Whisky Wednesday’ with his review on You Tube (July 2015):

Old Pulteney 21yo 70cl

Old Pulteney ‘Clipper’

Bought – The Whisky Shop, 30th September 2014

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.29/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

I always thought a ‘clipper’ was the teacher at school that used to give kids a clip around the ear for being naughty but apparently it’s a sort of boat too. One that Old Pulteney entered in a race around the world, heading off from London in September 2013 and arriving back in July 2014. The Clipper bottling celebrates this journey. The ‘Old Pulteney’ was the only Scottish entrant in the race and a cunning way for the distillery to spread its name around the world. One of 12 ships taking part, the Old Pulteney clipper would get plenty of press coverage, and dock in various countries along the way with local natives asking “what’s this Old Pulteney stuff?!” Here’s one of the videos taken on board the ‘Old Pulteney’ clipper during its voyage:

For me, this bottle signifies a change in my whisky collecting. The Whisky Shop took 5 weeks to get a bottle in after I requested it. As a result the price had gone down £5 elsewhere so I naturally asked them to match it. Instead they offered me free membership of their W Club (normally £12.50), so I accepted. A good move on their part because the 10% discount I now get as a member has already encouraged me to buy a few bottles. I’ve also been asked to go on their tasting panel and report back my thoughts to other members via their website. Me?! Write about whisky?! Hmmm. 😉

Old Pulteney Clipper NAS 70cl