By Kurt Maitland
The Old Pulteney Distillery was established in 1826 in the Pulteneytown area of Wick. It was the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland when it was built and remains so to this day. In fact, when the distillery was first built it was so inaccessible it could only be reached by sea, this despite being located on land.
A local prohibition law helped to close the Old Pulteney distillery in 1930, and it only reopened in 1951 after that anti-alcohol law was abolished. Since the reopening, the Old Pulteney has been a beloved single malt, offering a unique experience for those who seek it out.
The Old Pulteney Navigator is an NAS expression, bottled at 46% abv (more potent than the distillery’s standard 12 year old single malt), that has been aged in a mix of ex-sherry and bourbon casks in recognition of the distillery’s long maritime history.
Color: Pale Straw
Nose: The Navigator has a light nose, hinting of sweet cereal and sea salt with whiffs of light sherry and stone fruits.
Taste: This NAS release is a departure from the Old Pulteney standard line in terms of flavor. It has the cereal note that consistently runs through all of the Old Pulteney expressions with hints of other flavors like sherry, citrus, cherry, toffee and chocolate, but there is more of a maritime character than is the case with the 12 Year Old expression. Sea salt and a bit of smoke are present as well, but the cereal notes hold sway until the finish. The mouthfeel is light bodied and even, not too oily or dry at first blush.
Finish: A swell of waxy fruitiness followed by a salty middling white pepper burn. The finish is a bit of a surprise but goes well with the salty character of the release.
I like this release and when I had it on my shelf with the 12 Year Old expression it was always a tossup as to which I would reach for. They both are tasty drams with only the price difference making lean toward the 12 Year.
As always, the Old Pulteney is a well-priced single malt and member in good standing of the “Bang for the Buck” club. While more expensive than the standard 12 year old release, the Navigator expression can be found for between $40 to $45 USD, which is still a great price for a single malt of this quality.
This release has already won a few awards in its short time in the market, earning silvers at the 2014 International Spirits Challenge and International Wine and Spirits Competition.