Old Pulteney (12 year)

What can I say about Old Pulteney that I didn’t say in my review of the 17 year? I promise not to talk about Jim Murray… oops.

Old Pulteney 12 year is aged only in ex-bourbon casks, and can be found (with a little hunting) for $32 a bottle, although recent fame caused by the attentions of the aforementioned author have driven up prices of the entire OP range. You may have to pay $42.

Nose: Everyone always says ‘salty’ when talking about OP. To me, it smells more like a heavily vegetal tequila. Seaweed, cooked cactus (nopales), lime peel, and a hint of vanilla. All of the aromas are robust – nothing light about this whisky.

Palate: Salted caramel, roasted chestnuts, a sticky, industrial grime (a little like the ‘dirty’ flavor of Springbank), like grimy pennies.

Finish: Some sweetness arrives, dry taffy, shortbread cookies. The finish gets grassy again, but without any bitterness. Ends on the woody side.

With Water: Water adds a tart note, a more distinct lime peel or even key lime pie, to the nose and makes the finish slightly sweeter. Some water can’t hurt.

Overall: Somewhat of a rollercoaster of unique flavors and aromas, paired with off-putting and off-seeming notes like grimy pennies. It’s a bit like a woodsier, grassier, more tequila-like variant of Springbank. Very little sweetness, this is almost more of an aperitif or digestif than a dessert drink, although missing the bitter herbs. I would seek out a taste of this before committing to a bottle, even if you’re a Springbank fan. It’s just not for everybody.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Using water rising from the stone in Caithness, a barren rocky coastline in Scotland’s far Northern Highlands, Old Pulteney was built in 1827 to supply local herring fishermen with a few drams to warm them up after (or during?) their windy work. The distillery uses the town water supply, which is pumped from the Loch of Yarrows to the south. The distillery’s stills are unusual, with large boil-bulbs and lyne arms that twist as they descend sharply into worms. Old Pulteney lies at the center of the debate about salty character in whisky, as its maritime influence is undeniable. Its coastal warehouses, constantly battered by the brine-laden gusty winds of the northern Atlantic, certainly smell of the sea. Those warehouses hold a small percentage of Old Pulteney aging in sherry casks, but the majority rests in ex-bourbon. The spirit is filled into distinctive bottles with a bulb in the neck that evokes the shape of the site’s stills.

Old Pulteney (12 year)
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $32 - $42
Acquired: (30ml sample bottle) Master of Malt.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , ,
11 Comments

11 Responses to Old Pulteney (12 year)

  1. Eric says:

    I just bought a bottle of Old Pulteney 12 Y.O. at my local Binny’s in the Chicago area, and it is 43% ABV. Either I got an old one from a previous bottling, or something has changed. Do you have any info on this? Everywhere I go online says this is 40%, but I can confirm mine says 43%. Cost me $37.99 plus tax. Interesting.

    • Indeed, a mystery. The OP website lists it at 40%, but I’ve seen a few references to a 43% ABV version online. I had assumed those were European (700ml) bottlings, but apparently not. Either the 43% is an improvement that’s so new that the website hasn’t been updated yet, or it has been replaced by a new 40% version without any fanfare. Since the OP packaging was redone in the last few years, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter…

      • Eric says:

        Comparing the bottle you have pictured to mine, I see a difference. The lettering of “Old Pulteney” is in an arch shape on your bottle and box, while on mine it is straight across, with “Old” on top and “Pulteney” below. There are a few other nuances that are different, but the bottle shape is identical, as is the box shape. It is definitely 750 ml.

        As far as my assessment of it, I like it, but it isn’t a standout. It’s a good whisky for the price, but I just opened a bottle of Ardmore Traditional Cask for $29.99 which is much better. Non-chill filtered, and 46%. A good peated, highland malt. Try it, if you get a chance. Cheers!

        • Eric says:

          I went to another local Binny’s in the Chicago area and found more Old Pulteney 12 Year Old bottles at 43%. The 40% variety must be new. I know many Single Malts that are 40% in the UK and Europe are 43% in the United States. I wonder if Old Pulteney has reduced its alcohol content for consistency’s sake? Either way, I thought I’d just post my findings for everyone’s information.

  2. Jason Debly says:

    I have never been a fan of this malt. The price is attractive but the first sip is a disappointment.

    “. . . off-seeming notes like grimy pennies” pretty much sums it up for me too. One to avoid.

  3. Eric G says:

    Interestingly, where I live in MN you can get the 21 year old for $100. Best age-to-dollar ratio I’ve seen. Unfortunately, it’s only good, and whisky that old and expensive ought to be great.

  4. Ben says:

    Apparently, I’m the only committed Scotch drinker on the planet who likes this stuff.

    I find the OP 12 a sweet (yes, sweet), slightly salty (yes, salty), nicely balanced, middle of the road sort of dram, rather like the Glenfiddich 12 but with a shade more personality. Is it great? Or memorable? No. But it’s pleasing in a sweet and unmemorable way. And at only $32 (I can still find it at that price, despite Jim M – - – - ‘s influence), it’s a good bargain.

    Perhaps your review and the reactions of my fellow readers will keep the price down. That would be fine.

    • Thanks for the comment, Ben! I find that for every whisky on the planet, there are always people who like it and are ready to defend it. I think that’s great – it shows that we do NOT all taste things the same way, and have different sensitivities to flavor components in whiskies. I often complain about ‘rotten banana’ notes and bitter finishes in whiskies that plenty of readers tell me are fine, and that I’m nuts. That’s just the way it goes. If nothing else, this should teach us all to taste every whisky before passing judgement on it. Cheers!

  5. YouCanKeepIt says:

    This is a decent scotch, but I’m getting sick of paying these prices for scotch. I use to get this at $30, than all of a sudden it’s $45, you know what – keep it.
    Every time I go back to buy a bottle of scotch the price is up again, and in some cases it jumps by 15 or 20 bucks.
    I went in the liquor store the other day and left without buying anything, screw’m, find some other chump. A bottle of liquor just ain’t worth that much money and the $80 bottle ain’t any better than the $40 bottle, it’s all a scam, a big marketing game.
    And, you know I can afford it, I ain’t hurting for money, but seriously I’ve got a lot better things to do with my money, I can find other great spirits and good wines to buy at a fraction of the price….Hey Scotland….read my lips…… “Keep you’re crap”

    • @YouCanKeepIt – I appreciate the sentiment! I feel the same way, often, and I’ve slowed or stopped buying products from a lot of major Scottish producers (Diageo and Edrington, among others) because of their price increases.

      • YouCanKeepIt says:

        I’ve noticed one marketing strategy they use it to drive the price up as high as they can get it, until people stop buying it, then they drop the price down again and change label and start the game over.
        In some cases like Adrbed 10 they just drop the price, now it’s going up again. – keep it

        And have you noticed the price of Dalmore 12 and their Cigar Malt, a couple years ago they couldn’t give it away at $30, because it wasn’t very good, now all of a sudden the price is thru the roof, and I’m suppose to be so stupid as to believe it’s any better now that they’ve more than doubled the price…. you’re a suck if you buy that stuff.

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