The most northerly distillery in Scotland greets you with quite a nose. That is unsurprising, since its 21-year-old sibling was given an astonishing score of 97.5/100 in Jim Murray’s 2012 Whisky Bible, earning itself the accolade ‘World Whisky of the Year 2012′. Old Pulteney labels itself the Maritime Malt, and both elements are quite evident in the nose. Its smokiness belies a wonderful fruitiness that creates a superb balance. Salt, sea and smoke are here in glorious abundance. It’s dry, yes, but citrus fruits and pear more than rescue any descent into eye-watering bitterness. It’s also here that the ‘Maritime Malt’ completes its name, for a delightful hint of the latter mixes with the former creating a Highland cocktail that many distilleries would be proud of.
On the mouth, the fruits come forward (more pear than citrus) but so does the malt and the cereal – balanced to great effect. It’s here that the sea has its greatest impact, and the salt comes through to ensure that the dram never becomes saccharine, instead choosing to hover boldly on a dry note that allows the cereal to play to its strengths.
These four elements (smoke, salt, pear and citrus) unsurprisingly close a pleasant show. A long finish starts with the smoke and the salt, setting the tone for a muscular and strong reverberation that is more sharp than sweet. It hangs in the mouth long enough for the barley to make its mark and disappear before (if you’re really being left-wing, and Josh does agree) a trace of warm custard arrives to mop up any dry traces.
A fine whisky and, whilst the finish is the component most lacking here, Mr Murray assures us that, if left for nine years, this becomes the best single malt in the world. We look forward to testing the hypothesis…
Nose 22 Taste 20 Finish 18 Balance 21