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Old Pulteney distillery is located in Wick, a fishing village in the far north-east of Scotland, and was founded in 1826 by James Henderson. The part of town where the distillery is located is called Pulteneytown, named after Sir William Pulteney, a former governor of the British Fisheries Society. The Henderson family remained in control of the distillery until 1920 when it was sold to James Watson & Co. Ltd. from Dundee. Ownership then changed quickly again, first in 1923 when Old Pulteney was sold to John Dewar & Sons Ltd and one more time in 1925 when it was acquired by the Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL). In 1930 the DCL decided to close the distillery, which it remained until 1951 when it was resurrected by Robert Cumming, a lawyer from Banff in Speyside. Cumming sold the distillery to Hiram Walker in 1955 who decided to renovate the distillery in 1958. The ubiquitous changes in ownership continued in 1961 when Old Pulteney was sold once more, this time to Allied Breweries (who changed their name to Allied Lyons in 1981 and to Allied Domecq plc in 1994). In 1995 the distillery was acquired by Inver House Distillers, only for ownership to change again when in 2001 Inver House were acquired by Pacific Spirits, a subsidiary of Thailand-based Great Oriole Group – who in 2006 sold Pacific Spirits including Old Pulteney distillery to International Beverage Holdings, the international arm of ThaiBev, Thailand's largest beverage company (they are the current owners). The 17-year old version was first introduced in 2004 and for the most part is matured in ex-bourbon casks, with the remainder being matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks.
The nose is soft and sweet with vanilla and honey flavours coming first, followed by a whiff of smoke. Then there are oranges and some apricots. Towards the end this gets quite grassy and herbal.
The palate is medium-bodied and spicy. Vanilla and honey flavours are back, now together with some nice apple notes and a hint of lemon. There is a good dose of wood spice, making this a rather prickly palate.
The finish is of medium length and pleasantly warming. Orange peel and cinnamon are now prominent, this time followed by a hint of chocolate.
This is a solid single malt that has more complexity and richness than the 12-year old version. While I was impressed by its overall balance, the palate was a tad too spicy for me. Again, and as was the case with the 12-year old, I did not detect any of the ‘maritime’ flavours that Old Pulteney is known for. Still, and in other words, this is good stuff from Wick!