There are plenty of whiskies that are “good for the price”; but if we’re being honest don’t actually do much to satisfy the cravings for a full, rounded whisky experience. Much rarer are the ones that are actually damn good, and would still be good regardless of the cost.
Every whisky shelf needs a few staple bottles that are reliable, available and well-priced for everyday consumption. Not everyone has the budget to be sipping 21 year old Springbank after work every night, so we’re lucky to have available to us drams like Old Pulteney 12 that are genuine quality for not much money.
In the days of NAS blends with fancy packaging and a pretty unjustified price tag, I often wonder why people bypass a genuine age-stated single malt at 12 years of age for such a decent price. I have personally gone into the supermarket several times with the intention of buying something previously un-tried to take to a party or festival and have ended up coming away with Pulteney 12 instead, simply because it’s the far more sensible purchase than the competition.
Everyone beginning their journey should try a bottle, and I would bet that 90% of people will be coming back for more. Pulteney have recently re-vamped their range and have dropped the highly regarded 17yo, but thankfully the 12 remains with no change other than a new label.
The tasting notes mention a salty, coastal element on the nose and palate and they’re dead right. Sea air dominates in the glass and it’s difficult not to attribute that to the casks having spent 12 years maturing on the coast where the weather is extremely changeable, thus causing the wood to breathe more so than in other climates.
Another thing that makes Pulteney a unique dram in all it’s forms is the stills. Traditionally a whisky still has a curved lyne arm that flows neatly from the top of the still and out. Search for images of any distillery’s stills and you’ll see what I mean. When Pulteney’s were being installed they were too tall to fit through the door, and rather than be re-made, they simply had their tops cut off and a flat plate welded on top to seal them once they were inside! This contributes significantly to the distillery signature of Pulteney and leads to a sweet caramel flavour from the new make spirit.
Combine this with the aforementioned salty element and you get delicious smells and flavours of salted caramel and butterscotch. This is balanced by a lovely warm spice, with almond and nutmeg flavours. Think sugared almonds and you’re on the right track.
If you’re new to scotch, give it a try and if you’ve been around a while and are used to more expensive and complex drams, I suggest you go back to Old Pulteney 12 and remind yourself what is possible at the lower end of the spectrum. Context is important!