Where better to enjoy the newly revived core range of Old Pulteney whiskies than in the new tasting room at the Pulteney distillery? Well, that was the privilege that the WU team got to experience recently. For notes on the distillery itself, see our separate post here. For the main event itself though, here are our notes on the 12 year old, 15 year old, 18 year old and the no-age-statement Huddart.
- The New Core Range by Old Pulteney
12 Year Old
The first thing to report here is that, despite the new packaging, the recipe remains the same! Now, we might have been caught up in the moment, but during the tasting session, we noted that the classic 12 year old OP is matured solely in bourbon barrels. Is that right? The colour to it has such a reddish tint that we would swear there is some sherry influence here. A quick Google search proves we should trust our notes more! The 12yo is most certainly only matured in air-dried, ex-bourbon casks. Even without the sherry influence though there are so many fruits going on here! Sultanas and pear drops. Butterscotch sweetness and toffee flavours too. There’s a vanilla fudge softness and texture to it as well. The malt really comes through nicely. The signature Old Pulteney briny taste is present at the end too. Just a little bit mind you, not too overpowering. Classic. A staple in the WU cabinet.
15 Year Old
Now we’re properly getting some of that maritime influence in the malt! Getting it by the lungful in fact (ed: are you sure that recent video about Pulteneytown’s heritage as a leading fishing port isn’t influencing things too much here?).The nose is like standing on the harbour’s edge, but once it hits the lips, it delivers a strange sensation of being light in body, heavy in flavours and influences that just seem to roll in one after the other. On the tongue, it has a silky, oily texture that seems to coat the mouth and delivers up a toffee sweetness as a base flavour. After that, crisp apples fill the mouth. Lots of nice, light autumnal fruit sensations start appearing. Pears in particular. A pinch of water also brings out a little orange. Overall, the seasalt influence is noticeable but always plays second fiddle to the fruits, sweetness and spice that crash in wave after wave (to continue the maritime narrative).
18 Year Old
Well, you’d have thought that the extra years in the barrel would have brought more woody flavours out. Perhaps they would have mellowed the other fruitier notes out over time, but far from it! At first, it makes for a pretty fiery whisky–more so than any of the others in the series. The nose has all sorts of fruity components fighting for attention. When actually tasting it, there’s some strong fruitcake flavours in there: cinnamon, clove, ginger, sweet orange, and clementine. Truth be told, it doesn’t taste like an Old Pulteney that we’re familiar with at this stage. After a little bit of time, those fruitcake flavours also develop a peppery finish and there’s lasting dark chocolate or powdered cocoa. The sherry from the Spanish oak casks makes an appearance on the finish too. Altogether there’s a lot of things going on here, they all work together and this dram just screams quality. Interestingly, the 12yo tastes so sweet when you go back between the two.
So, here we have the new release that has created a lot of intrigue. Not only is it a no-age-statement release amongst these 3 traditional milestone expressions, but, unusually for Old Pulteney, it is also a peated release. The whisky itself is a blend of bourbon and sherry casks but the peat influence does not come from the original barley. Instead, it comes from the final bourbon and sherry marriage being finished in refilled whisky barrels that have previously housed a peated whisky – and it must have been a strong one too! On the nose, the whisky has quite a new-make burst of strength and alcohol to it (which actually turned off a few of the infrequent whisky-drinkers in the tasting room and stopped them from drinking the whisky itself), but, it does also deliver quite a bit of the maritime sea salt influence to it–more so than any of the aged expressions. Maybe the peat influence helps to really bring out that briny note? The Huddart also has much more of an oaky spice to it than its age stated siblings, making for more of a bourbon-style flavour and vanilla body. That said, the vanilla is very much playing a support role to the original barley and cask influences. The peat smoke only really seems to reveal itself on the finish, but then, with time, and as the whisky breathes, the smoke seems to become more and more prominent. Definitely a peat smoke influence too, rather than coal-fire or campfire types of smoke. It’s peat but not as we know it!