The Old Pulteney distillery is the most northerly mainland distillery in Scotland. Located near to the Highland fishing town of Wick, it lies around 15 mile south of John O'Groats. Old Pulteney is currently owned by Inver House Distillers and has a production capacity of three million litres a year. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson and Wick was the the main European hub for herring fishing industry at that time. The distillery was named after Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, the herring industry's leading light of the day and this makes it one of the few distilleries to be named after a person. To read further information about the distillery and our visit there - click here.
Old Pulteney's core range consists of a 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old. The brand has grown massively in the last three years and this has seen Old Pulteney climb into the top 20 for world sales of single malts. Worldwide sales grew by 16% alone in 2008. This exclusive addition to the range is only available in the travel retail/Duty Free sector and is limited to 9,600 bottles. Each one litre bottle will retail at around the £35 mark and it has just been released.
Old Pulteney's new whisky is named after the trawler Good Hope (pictured, left), whose home port was Wick and carried the registration number WK209. It was built in 1948 and was the first trawler from Wick to use echo location technology to find schools of fish. The whisky has been bottled at an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV and has been entirely matured in European oak ex-sherry casks. The age is not stated, but is rumoured to be a mix of 8-12 year old whiskies, and WK209 follows on from the previous exclusive WK499 release, named after another trawler (the Isabella Fortuna). To read our review of WK499, click here.
Our tasting notes
The colour of WK209 is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose is fresh and promising. There is an immediate aroma of juicy sultanas, followed by some candied citrus peel (especially lemon, with a hint of orange) and crumbly brown sugar. With time aromas of stewed pear and apple appear, which are reminiscent of a fruit compote - this is further confirmed with a whiff of cinnamon and nutmeg spice. The increasingly complexity of the nose also includes aromas of rich butter and salty brine. On the palate, this feels clean, fresh and tangy with a very pleasant initial mix of the salty and sultana notes from the nose. Further dried fruits appear (think of raisin and a hint of candied orange peel), along with the crumbly brown sugar and stewed fruit compote characteristics. The initial sweetness of the palate is helped by a note of honey, before some drier elements turn it in a slightly different direction and add balance and depth. These include notes of toasted almond, wood spice (especially cinnamon) and further salty brine, which seems to increase with time and helps the whisky retain its freshness. The finish is slightly short but pleasant, with the same movement from the sweeter notes to the drier, spicier, saltier ones.
What's the verdict?
This whisky is lovely and offers something different from Old Pulteney. Most of their whiskies are matured in ex-bourbon casks or in a mix of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, so it is interesting to try one from purely ex-sherry casks. It has a pleasant and surprising freshness for a pure sherry cask matured whisky and the combination between the bracing signature saltiness of Old Pulteney and the dried fruity quality from the ex-sherry casks is excellent. WK209 also seems a cracking bargain for the price.