Review: Old Pulteney 12 Years Old (2011)

Review: Old Pulteney 12 Years Old (2011)

My favorite Old Pulteney has always been old Old Pulteney: At 30 years old, Pulteney takes on the essence of a longshoreman, but at a young 12 years old, as we have it here, it’s but an innocent seafaring lad of a whisky.

Hailing from the Highlands, Old Pulteney is the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland. (Only Scapa and Highland Park, both on Orkney, are further up there.)

This young Old Pulteney is hardly a showstopper. Brash and unbalanced, it’s a burly whisky, incredibly punchy and hot despite a mere 86 proof in the bottle, and redolent on the nose of baked bread, tar, and coal smoke.

The body features a bigger load of brine and seaweed, a touch of honey sweetness, than an overload of dried herbs, malt, and toasted (or possibly stale) bread. Touches of sherry, mainly on the finish. Honey and toast sounds like a good combination in theory, but here it is difficult and somewhat inharmonious.

86 proof.

B- / $33 / 

Old Pulteney 12 Years Old (2011)




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  1. Scott on June 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I don’t usually post comments, but I have to strongly disagree about this one. Yes, Pulteney 12 is hugely complex and cerebral, but it’s hardly unbalanced. It does what it does in much the same way as a Lagavulin 16 (although obviously here you’re getting a bittersweet coastal highlander rather than a peaty Ileach): lots and lots of strong flavors butting up against each other, none fully winning out but each taking their turn at the front. That sort of density is very, very rare in sub-$35 malts. The entry-level Benromach, Glenmorangie, and Ardmore TC head in the right direction, but don’t quite get there; Finlaggan can do it, but if anything it’s even more likely to offend. If the buyer wants something totally innocuous, obviously there are lots of better options out there. But if they’re looking for something with real personality, something which can seriously develop itself over half an hour (after a modest spoonful of water), Pulteney 12 is probably the best bet for the price range. (And if you don’t like it at first, close the bottle to let it oxidize for a week and you’ll get a different whisky.)

  2. Christopher Null on June 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks Scott — will certainly give it another shot soon.

  3. Josh on July 2, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Yeah, gotta agree with Scott on this one – Pulteney 12 is good stuff, and one of the best values for single malts. I don’t find it unbalanced or overpowering at all. To each his own, I suppose.

  4. Adam on March 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm


    I almost always agree with your reviews, but this is really quite good stuff…reminiscent of Clynelish with a bit more sea…perhaps you got a bad batch? Looking forward to the 17 at your recommendation…love really groovy maritime scotches with crazy PX finishes…thanks for an awesome website.


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