I am so happy that we are now beginning to see more and more releases of Old Pulteney, a distillery which lies close to my heart. Previously, Old Pulteney has basically only available been as 12, 17 and 21 YO, and in some not-always-great NAS guises for travel retail. With the core range being revamped (the stocks of the 17 YO will last about another year and the 21 YO is already off the shelves, being replaced with a 25 YO), what is a lover of Old Pulteney to do? Well, in the last few years, they have finally begun to release quite a few single casks as well as some limited editions. The whisky in my glass is a 32 YO sold exclusively at Edingburgh airport, released there on 14 September and retailing at £275. I suppose the full name would be something like Old Pulteney single cask 202/1985, bottled 2017, 32 YO, 168 bottles, 51%, for World of whiskies at Edinburgh Airport. The cask was an ex-bourbon. With a yield of as many as 168 bottles after more than three decades, a hogshead is perhaps a safer bet than a barrel. Anyway, here are my tasting notes.
On the nose: well, this is just lovely. 32 years is a long time, but the cask far from erased Old Pulteney’s bold distillate in all that time. There is a marked sweetness, reminiscent of heather honey; seawater, or rather, sea air. Quite fruity, but the fruits are not screaming as in some modern whiskies matured in first-fill bourbon. Here, they are mid-way betwen fresh and dried: especially pineapple and mangoes, and pears, although the pears are more like candy or ice cream. Tutti frutti candy, too, and a marked note of salted crackers. It’s layers upon layers of aromas. A weak, weak hint of diesel, and I mean that in the absolute best of ways – Old Pulteney simply cannot be tamed entirely.
On the palate: the arrival is soft, with tepid cream and soft allspice, and moves on to those notes of sea air. Heather honey; a touch of the bitterness of oak; powdered sugar and subdued vanilla. Under all these flavours, there is a touch of motor oil or rather warm diesel engine which I find so absolutely lovely in Old Pulteney. The salted crackers from the nose have been transformed into sweeter biscuits, more like Digestives. It is more cautious on the fruits than on the nose, although sweetened lemons are here, and also vague flowery notes.
Finish: at first, we are all on spearmint, with a gentle note of pink pepper; several other spices, indistinguishable, team up with fine notes of vanilla and an oiliness which is quite like linseed oil. The citrusy note remains, but is now grapefruit rather than sweetened lemons. A teeny tiny disappointment; I would have expected more complexity and length in the finish of such an old whisky.
With water, the nose becomes more raw, in the absolute best of ways: the fruits are more citrusy, and there are hints of slightly burned oranges. On the palate, the whisky is now more tart, although that lukewarm cream from the nose has been awoken. I also find red gooseberries and merengue pie. But it’s in the finish that the real transformation takes place: it’s now mag. Ni. Fi. Cent. What an opener! Soft peppery notes, cream, allspice, grapefruits and mild cough drops. Wonderfully Pulteney!
Comments and conclusions: I have never tried an officially bottled single cask of Old Pultney which has disappointed me. At higher ages, their whiskies become calmer, more distinguished; at younger ages, they are often wonderfully fresh and zesty. This 32-year-old is quite as expected an exceptionally good whisky. I don’t score whiskies, but I we are somewhere just above 90. In my book, that’s liquid magic. With this single cask already being sold out at the airport, I might add that Old Pulteney’s new 1983 Vintage, which I got to try at the Whisky show in London, is even closer to the distillate and frankly even better than this single cask. But the whisky I have tried tonight is still a really good dram.