Friday, September 03, 2010

just a wick one

Here's my latest whisky bargain: Old Pulteney 12-year-old, currently retailing for a knock-down 20 quid at a Tesco near you (that's around 5-6 quid off the normal price).

The Old Pulteney distillery is in Wick, which is way up here, and is therefore the northernmost mainland distillery in Scotland - only the two Orkney distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park, are further north. In case you're wondering, as I was, this is the same Pulteney that the Pulteney Bridge in Bath was named for - specifically Sir William Pulteney, whose wife Frances owned large amounts of land around Bath. The Wick connection is that Pulteney commissioned Thomas Telford to build a harbour and a town to go with it on the outskirts of Wick; this ended up being called Pulteneytown (though this name doesn't seem to survive on any of the modern OS maps), and this is where the distillery is situated. The geography I've just described makes Old Pulteney a Highland whisky, which as I've said here means it's from my favourite whisky region.

Geography isn't necessarily a reliable guide to how a whisky's going to taste, but if you decided that, since Old Pulteney is located in between Glenmorangie and Highland Park, that it would therefore lie somewhere between the two, taste-wise, it just so happens that you wouldn't be far wrong. It's got the same slightly shortbread-y, custard-y thing as the Glenmorangie (this will be because both whiskies are matured exclusively in American ex-bourbon casks, unlike the Highland Park which uses sherry casks, as does the Dalmore) with just a hint of something a bit darker and oilier, which might be licorice or might be tractor tyres or something like that. There's just a whiff of something salty like seaweed or herrings as well, and a waft of smoke just to keep things from being too sweet and undemanding. It's much lighter and more polite than the Highland Park, which is much more of a teeth-rattling slap in the chops with all the sherry wood and smoke, and remains my favourite thing ever, whisky-wise, but it's nonetheless really very good indeed. The distinctive knobbly bottle shape mimics the shape of the distillery stills, incidentally.


Richard T said...

Accepting a degree of bias since I stay in Orkney, but after long deliberation and scientific testing (a glass of each in either hand sipped alternately), I have concluded that Scapa is the better of the two. Higher proof Scapa is even better.

electrichalibut said...

You may very well be right - I've never tried the Scapa though as it's not widely available (i.e. not in Tesco's anyway!). I'm due to be passing through Birmingham airport in a few weeks so I intend a quick raid on their duty-free section.