Taste Review #47 – Old Pulteney 17
This is a slightly unusual review for me. Indeed it is a first, as it is the first time that I have reviewed a dram from a distillery that I have already reviewed. It has been sometime since I looked at the Old Pulteney 12, and I did promise to review the 17 year old, well here it is.
Reviewing distilleries reviewed before was always going to happen at some point and I tried my hardest to avoid it. However, if I leave this one much longer the price may rise enough to put it out of reach. Other distilleries we can look forward to reviewing again in the near future are Benrinnes, Glenfarclas, GlenAllachie,
I last reviewed Old Pulteney in August last year, and it was a success. Although it was the 12 year old, and it wasn’t exactly up my street, it was a dram I could recommend. You can visit the review here.
The dram I am trying today is a sample of the now discontinued 17 year old, which went out of production in 2018. It is still available in online retailers, and some specialist shops, but it is fast on its way to becoming a whisky that will rise more in price. I’ve already saved a few bottles back, as it was a popular dram when in production and I feel a lot of the existing stock will be drunk. The 17 year old was my first introduction to Old Pulteney a few years ago and I do remember it as being quite pleasant, but it was one of those things that I never really went back to. Thankfully I had presence of mind to get some when I heard it was discontinued.
Perhaps that this is the second time that I’ve reviewed a dram from Wick, I should make an effort to visit the distillery. It has been 19 years since I was last there, but it was as a quick flying visit (literally!) to the airport. I was due to join a vessel West of Shetland, and the Super Puma Helicopter we were travelling in had to make a refuelling stop. Due to regulations, we all had to disembark off of the chopper and go into the terminal. We were told we could grab a coffee or use the toilet. Easier said than done when in a survival suit! The chopper was refuelled before I could even get as far as using the toilet! Such is the struggle with the waterproof onesie.
Looking at the photos of the tubes for bottles that I have in storage, I can see that there is an incorrect statement on the tube – it proclaims that Pulteney distillery is the most northern whisky distillery on the Scottish Mainland. While this was true at one point, I am quite sure having passed not only my O level in Geography, but a Scottish Higher in the subject, that the Thurso based Wolfburn Distillery is now holds that title. Perhaps Inver House didn’t want to change the packaging. There has been one change in packaging already, and the older bottlings have the arched writing on the tube, and a slightly lighter shade of navy blue, whereas the later tubes have much darker navy colouring, bordering on black. Its a nightmare to photograph I can tell you!
Without any further ado, let’s plough into the dram.
Very aromatic. Once again the brine was present. Vanilla, toffee, floral, citrus,
Extremely pleasant mouthfeel that gives a good coating to your mouth. Salted Caramel, peppery, a slight sour citrus, almonds in the background – possibly marzipan? Honey definitely in the mix. The heat builds up from a mild and pleasant arrival to something a bit spicier. Nutmeg, cinnamon, while still holding a brine note.
Long, light wood note, spices, sweet, slightly peppery holding the brine to the last. A slight bitter note in the drying finish that reminded me of a plain chocolate.
This dram was very good, and I now sort of regret tasting the 12 year old first. I think if I was to compare these drams, the 12 would definitely have the more pronounced brine notes, but the 17 is definitely more refined. This bottling has been put together with 90% ex-bourbon casks and 10% Oloroso cask. The sherry influence is definitely there, but the way this has been crafted it is not overpowering.
Certainly the casks don’t seem to have overpowered the spirit, and the citrus note is easily picked out along with the floral, which can be something that sherry casks dominate with their sweetness. Indeed, with every few sips I went back to, there was a little extra note.
I would definitely recommend pouring this one out and cover it for 20 minutes or so to let the aromas build up in the glass. I didn’t but left it sitting beside me and the smells were just fantastic, leaving me with the regret of what could have been.
It is quite obvious from the mouthfeel that this has not been chill filtered. It is nicely oily and covers the mouth like velvet. It is however a bit sad that the 17 has also been artificially coloured, which is a shame, as it gets so many other things right. As it is now discontinued along with the old 21 year old due to a lack of the correct aged stock – something that owners Inver House were quite honest about, if we were to see this back again, I hope that Inver House also appreciate that whisky geeks like to see whiskies of this age and quality without colouring.
While I said that this is a not quite a unicorn whisky, it will become rarer, although in the UK it is still relatively easy to get, but don’t expect to see many still on the shelves. Online retailers are your best bet, but things are starting to rise in price, and this is where I become a bit torn with my summation. Would I recommend it? Well, yes and no. For taste, I would definitely recommend it, and if it was a currently produced whisky, it would get a full thumbs up. However this was discontinued in 2018, and now supplies are starting to tighten, the price has started to rise, although I do not really know if this is retailers taking advantage.
When I bought my last full size bottle of OP, I paid £74.99 from the Speyside Whisky Shop in June last year. This would represent good value for a very solid 17 year old. However, online prices are now tipping the £100 mark, and I don’t believe this is the best value you can achieve. Certainly at this price, I hate to say it, but if you are a drinker and not a collector, unless you are desperate to have a full bottle of it, this does not represent good value and I would look at spending my money on something a bit more affordable. As per my usual recommendation, which is to look at online auctions. This bottle can be seen for around £70. Certainly the 105th Scotch Whisky Auction saw all 5 lots of this whisky go for that figure, but other auctions have been higher. Once you factor in auction fees, you are paying just a little more over the original retail price, which I would say would be better value.
If you don’t want to spend that much cash on a drink, then pay a visit to Master of Malt. You can buy a 3cl sample for £9.22, which is very dear, but you can make it a bit more worth while by adding other samples to lower the aggregate shipping price. This is how I got my sample used for this review, but it was bought over a year ago, when the price was only about £6.
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All Photos – Author’s Own