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Old Pulteney 12 Year Old

Review: Old Pulteney 12 Year Old   86.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Revisited October 31, 2014

According to the Old Pulteney website, this whisky is produced at the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland, in Wick. (It was founded in 1826 by James Henderson during the time of Wick’s herring boom.) The distillery lies in the heart of ‘Pulteneytown’, which was created for the fishermen in the area, and the distillery is an integral part of the history of this coastal town.

A couple of years ago, Old Pulteney shocked more than a few people when their 21-year-old expression won the big award in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible as his choice as the world’s best whisky in 2012. Last year they made a few more waves with the release of the distillery’s oldest production release, a 40-year-old single malt whisky. (The Old Pulteney  40 Year Old is extremely limited; but it has apparently been seen in a few stores here in Alberta.)

My most recent 700 ml sample bottle of Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Single Malt was provided by Woodman Wines and Spirits Inc. who are the importers/distributors of this brand in the Province of Ontario. I am told that this whisky is currently in about 90 locations (Whisky Shop Sections) of LCBO stores across that Province. It is also quite readily available in Alberta.


In the Bottle 5/5

The flagship brand for the Old Pulteney Distillery is the Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Single Malt. This whisky was matured wholely in ex-bourbon casks and according to the folks at Old Pulteney, it is “the definitive expression in the Old Pulteney family”. The whisky is bottled at 40% alcohol by volume and arrives in the attractive bottle and protective sleeve shown to the left. The bottle is somewhat squat, with a rather unique bubbled neck. The graphics are very nice and serve their purpose in making me interested in the whisky. Topping off the presentation is a straight sided corked closure. The overall presentation is somewhat masculine, and I think it has nice character.

An added feature of the bottle presentation (for the 375 ml bottle anyway) is some basic tasting notes on the side of the bottle. These tasting note are especially helpful for new Scotch drinkers who may not understand that Scotch Whisky has many different styles of production with a wide variety of flavour profiles. Anything which helps the consumer make a more informed decision is a good thing.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The whisky enters my glass as a nice golden amber coloured spirit which, when held up to the light, shows some flashes of orange and yellow. When I give my glass a tilt and slow twirl, the spirit leaves a light sheen of whisky on the inside of the glass. It takes a few seconds; but if you wait, some slightly thickened legs begin to slide back down into the whisky. The initial breezes above the glass set into my mind a vision of a lowland meadow as the scents carry light aromas of almond, vanilla, honey, meadowland grasses, and wood spice. As the glass sits, I catch some scents of sea brine and it makes me think there must be an ocean nearby. The wood spices build in the glass bringing me images of orange peel, willow, and fresh tobacco. Some grassy/floral impressions wander into my consciousness (heather and sawgrass), and I seem to be catching a few impressions of dark fruit (in particular raisins and dark-skinned cherries) which rounds out the experience. The aroma from the glass is pleasant and intriguing, particularly those notes of sea salt meandering through the meadowland breezes.

In the Mouth 52/60

The whisky is light to medium bodied and the nose translates very well to the palate. Light impressions of butterscotch begin the experience with flavours of almond/marzipan and vanilla providing a complement. As the whisky is sipped I notice a delicate thread of sea brine seems to permeate the experience; and just as we noticed in the breezes above the glass, the spicy oak seems to gather strength with each sip heating the mouth and puckering the palate somewhat. Meadowland grasses, a touch of heather, and a small clump of willow trees all seem to be found in the flavour profile of the 12-year-old whisky. Along for the ride is touch of sherry smoke found just at the back of the palate. The dram is quite enjoyable being both flavourful and easy to sip.

I also found enjoyment when I mixed the whisky into both short and tall cocktails. In fact I have shared one of these recipes with you at the conclusion of this review (see cocktail recipe below).

In the Throat 12.5/15

The ending caries a fair amount of peppery spice which ensures the tonsils get a nice tap as the whisky goes down. Ebbing flavours of butterscotch and wood spice seem to linger only to be followed by a gush of dry fruit at the very end.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

I found the character of the Old Pulteney 12 Year Old to be quite engaging. Like its older sibling the Old Pulteney 21 Year Old, the whisky has different layers of flavour that seem to unfold like a flower as you sip. As you travel through the different petals of flavour you notice a thread of brine is running throughout each flavour experience providing the whisky consistency and binding it together.

This is a pleasant dram which can be enjoyed equally well neat, or on ice, or in fine cocktails!

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


 Suggested Recipe:

SAM_1029 Black DonaldBlack Donald

1 1/2 oz Single Malt Scotch
1/2 oz Drambuie
1/2 oz Lime Juice
cracked ice
Q Ginger (Ginger Ale)
Lime for garnish

Place the first three ingredients in a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain into a Collins glass filled with cracked ice
Complete with Q Ginger
Garnish with lime

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublim

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