It’s always the quiet ones that surprise the most, so it goes for Scotch distilleries. Enter Old Pulteney, a stalwart but quiet brand that has been a workhorse Scotch for years. The distillery, which began production in 1826 and operated continuously until prohibition, was a mainstay for herring fishermen of the North Sea. In fact, due to the limited access to the distillery’s remote location, herring boats were the primary mode of Old Pulteney’s distribution for years.
Shuttered from 1930 until its rebirth in 1951, the distillery was purchased and expanded by J&G Stodart Ltd in 1958. It subsequently changed hands several times until bought by current owners Inver House Distillers (International Beverage Holdings), which also owns many spirits distilleries, including single-malt brands Speyburn and AnCnoc, and blended Scotch brand MacArthur’s, to name just a few.
Since 1997, Old Pulteney’s 12-y.o. has been its flagship whisky. This and its 15, 18, and 30-year-old library selections form Old Pulteney’s core offerings. But hidden in the pack, you’ll find some sneakily singular expressions, including one that I was fortunate enough to sample recently: Coastal Series Pineau Des Charentes Wine Cask Matured Scotch whisky. The name may be a mouthful of words, but the whisky provides an equal mouthful of single-malt curiosity and interest. It’s made even more enjoyable by the brand’s relatively low-key countenance. In other words, it’s a pleasant surprise!
This latest expression fulfills OP’s tradition of being a gentle, fruity, and moderately sweet dram. Typical of non-age-statement (NAS) bottlings, the whisky’s youth is evident across its profile – notable in the nose and the mouthfeel. In the glass, the color is golden amber, with a tinge of copper, likely from the wine cask maturation. The nose opens with a strong barley cereal note, with intense wine barrel spice (almost overpowering) calmed by adding a dash of quality water. Once past the initial intensity, I found a plethora of sweet and juicy notes: honeysuckle, vanilla caramel chews, orange zest, apple cobbler, and toasted walnuts. As I mentioned, the mouthfeel is relatively youthful – oaky, malty, and somewhat astringent. The initial sip reveals a slight saltiness, leading to stewed orchard fruits and a hint of minerality, with notes of savory spices leading to honey, caramel, and cereal grains. The swallow reveals more walnut, oak, and a touch of saltwater taffy. The afterglow reveals a slight soapiness, followed by more stewed fruits, ground ginger, white pepper, wine barrel, and finally, a note of balsamic vinegar.
With its noticeable youthfulness and somewhat exotic flavor profile, this may not appeal to traditionalists seeking a textbook Scotch whisky. However, if you like a little adventure and are willing to keep an open mind, there’s a lot to like. Old Pulteney is not usually associated with fanfare, so when there is news, it’s worthy of exploration, and this new line of cask expressions is definitely worth a look.