This morning I arrived at Wick airport for the first distillery visit in our little Inver House trip: Old Pulteney, the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland (until the plans for the reopening of the 19th century Wolf Burn distillery are granted).
Wick is a fairly small town nowadays, but it used to be the busiest herring fishing harbour in Europe. We stopped a moment to visit the Isabella Fortuna, a herring boat that inspired the distillery for its WK499 release. After the series’ second release WK209, we’ll probably see other duty free releases in the near future.
Pulteney distillery itself is fairly compact and has a peculiar urban style: it lacks the typical pagoda roof and it’s quite discreet from the outside. It’s not until you go into the inner courtyard that you see the operations. Distillery manager Malcolm Waring gave us a very pleasant tour, showing us the old mash tun (to be replaced in June 2012 together with some other refurbishing), the uncommon dry yeast that is used (as their location up North wouldn’t allow the delivery of liquid yeast during heavy winters) and the huge ball on the wash still.
We also visited some of the five warehouses (three dunnage and two racked) where approximately 25.000 casks are maturing. In one of them we tasted most of the range (Old Pulteney 17 years, Old Pulteney 21 years and Old Pulteney 30 years) as well as the current “distillery only” offer, a very interesting and uncommonly waxy 1997 single bourbon cask #1086 (£ 70) that I could bottle myself and proudly brought home.
In the near future an Old Pulteney 40 years old will be released, a marriage of two 1968 casks. It will hit the market as soon as the exquisite packaging is ready.
It’s great to see a distillery that’s a little uncommon in some ways, producing a spirit with a unique character, growing ever more popular. The ratio of single malt production vs. blending spirit is now 50/50 and they know their future is really in Old Pulteney as a single malt distillery.
It has been a great starting point for this trip. Thanks Malcolm.