Saturday, 29 December 2012

Whisky Discovery #287

Old Pulteney 40 Year Old
Highland Single Malt Whisky
circa £1,490.00 70cl
Old Pulteney 40 Year Old
Old Pulteney has recently unveiled the oldest and most exclusive official expression of single malt to leave the warehouses of this northernmost distillery on Scottish mainland since its establishment in 1826. 

The spirit of Pulteney is influenced by its environment like no other with the windswept and rugged Caithness Coast and the remote fishing port of Wick provide the background for one of the most intriguing whiskies in the world. This new stunning Old Pulteney was shaped by the land and the sea for over four decades and is the ultimate expression of the Maritime Malt

Old Pulteney 40 Year Old came from four casks, three Spanish ex-sherry hogsheads and one American oak ex-bourbon barrel, which yielded 493 bottles at a natural strength of 51.3% abv and has not been chill-filtered or coloured.

Pulteney Distillery Manager, Malcolm Waring, explains: “Old Pulteney begins its life as spirit already full of character. Then we mature it on site, here in Wick, we think its hugely important. With each passing year the whisky takes on a little bit of Caithness, the initial charisma is there but it develops more and more complexity. To see that so clearly in a whisky matured for over four decades is extraordinary; we are overwhelmed by the quality of this liquid and by how firmly it's anchored here. The people, the process, the land and the sea are all in there.” 

The whisky is presented in unusual deep-blue bottles crafted by The Tudor Crystal Design company and its sister company Plowden and Thompson’s Undertaking. Hand blown from melting silica, soda ash and special additions each bottle is then finished with solid silver melted blown across the glass to form a wave pattern. This gives the familiar 'Smuggler's Kettle' Old Pulteney bottle elegance and flair that pay respect to the liquid inside.

Each bottle is then topped with a stone closure whittled, polished, fine-pressure jetted, milled and polished again by the famous local Caithness Stone Industries. The bottles are finished with a Scottish hallmarked silver medallion stating the age of the whisky. The high-gloss lacquered wooden box that encases the bottle has the iconic Old Pulteney herring drifter silver-etched into it to complete the stunning presentation. In addition every bottle of Old Pulteney 40 Year Old comes with a hand-signed book by whisky expert Charles MacLean.

So What Did We Think?

News of this release came out at the end of October and the Old Pulteney 40 Year Old was available from specialist whisky retailers globally from the beginning of November. So firstly, I must say a massive thanks to Inver House Distillers for considering us to taste this unique expression. It's always nice to come home from work to find that the 'whisky angels' have visited during the day. Whilst our bottle was only the standard clear glass Old Pulteney miniature bottle it was a great surprise! 
The 'whisky angels' visited one morning
I saved opening this until 19th December, the second anniversary of this whisky journey, which I though would be a fitting tribute to it, and sat nosing it for ages before diving in. It has a rich and powerful nose, with polished oak wood, dark fruits, figs and dates, spicy pear, sweet dark toffee, butterscotch, liquorice root and a touch of salty brine. I read somewhere recently that I should take a whisky down to around 20% abv in order to pick out all of the flavours in the whisky, and so thought, with this I will slowly add water while I nosed. With no hydrometer at hand I used the graduations on my nosing glass and gradually took it down to around 34% abv (by calculation)

Water sweetens the nose giving more fruity notes; raisins and oranges at first and pineapple appears with a little more water. This was the first time I had added water, certainly to that level, a drop or two at a time while nosing to see what develops. Whilst the fruity notes get sweeter and more tropical with the water, the spicy wood note remains throughout.

I tasted it at cask strength initially and despite it's age showed remarkable freshness (rather like myself!) Whilst initially sweet, there is a rich liquorice root note, a fiery spicy heat, before the fruit and toffee notes return. The chili pepper heat singes the tongue at the end before settling down to a long rewarding finish balanced with both sweetness and salt.

A fabulous drop of whisky, unfortunately out of my budget at the moment, and with my current lottery form will be for some time. That said, there are some other Old Pulteney expressions that are in my budget range and hope to be adding one or two of them to my shelf very soon.

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