Seconds out, round 2

Posted 31 May 2018 by Matt / In Old Pulteney
The Dramble's tasting notes for Old Pulteney 2004 14 year old TWE Exclusive

Bottle Name: Old Pulteney 2004 14 year old TWE Exclusive

ABV: 62.1%
Distillery: Old Pulteney
Region: Highlands Age: 14

Today, we’re presenting you with the second of our Whisky Exchange exclusive single cask catchups. As always too much whisky, too little time – but there was no way I was going to let this one pass me by. As you might know, Old Pulteney was my gateway whisky – the single malt which set me on my whisky journey many moons ago. The recently released TWE exclusive Pulteney is something of an oddity, in that its been drawn from a single sherry butt. Most single casks releases from this distillery tend to be ex-bourbon – American oak being perfectly suited to maturing the sharp and crisp salt-tinged distillate that is a hallmark of the Wick-based distillery.

Single cask bottlings are often highly idiosyncratic - a single run of distillate being matured in a single cask for its entire maturation period (usually) which results in a selection of unique characteristics and subtleties that are never to be repeated in quite the same way again. These distinctive features are often lost when distilleries produce larger volumes of proprietary bottlings – consistency of colour and flavour being a necessary facet of wider releases.

The 2004 TWE Old Pulteney bottling is drawn from cask #128 (no doubt an oloroso butt) which was matured for 14 years and produced 612 bottles at an ABV of 62.1%. As an aside - cask #127 (no doubt filled at the same time as the TWE exclusive) was produced for the 60th Anniversary of Paris-based retailer La Maison du Whisky. It was bottled back in 2016 as a 12 year old, but, interestingly at a slightly lower ABV than the TWE bottling released earlier this year – such are the vagaries of oak and maturation. I wonder who’s earmarked cask #129?

Nose: Rich and exceedingly sherried – toffee, treacle, chocolate, rum-soaked raisins along with a host of heavily reduced red berries and stewed plums. There are some subtleties here – even at 62.1% - almond paste, spent coffee grounds, slightly savoury meat stock, zesty lemon and just a hint of coastal breeze. The addition of water (which I’m almost sure you’re going to be reaching for quite quickly) increases the savoury flavours further with Bovril and gentle cranberry-infused gravy, as well as allowing some spicing to shine through – powdered ginger.

Taste: Quite a huge arrival, which some might find a touch hostile –there’s a real initial kick of prickly black pepper and chilli spice and heat. Once your palate has recovered you’ll be able to pick out some of the wider flavours – chocolate, coffee beans, Crunchie bars (honecomb), molasses and a gentle hint of minerality – not quite sea salt, but heading in that direction. Water provides real benefit here – reducing the intimidating arrival and allowing the sherry-led berry fruits more of a platform. Ginger cake and further minerality come to the fore and present an extremely tasty and quite balanced (with the right volume of dilution) drinking experience.

Finish: Long with pepper and cinnamon alongside chocolate. Undiluted, this has some cough syrup like qualities – the viscosity still being perceptible for quite some time. Reduced, this becomes much softer, and also slightly drying.

The 2004 Old Pulteney TWE exclusive has not convinced me that Old Pulteney is in actual fact more suited to sherry cask maturation – it is however both bold and frankly delicious (when diluted to a more palatable ABV). In its natural form, this doesn’t pull its punches, offering intense sherry-forward flavour, reduced however I found this to be both tasty and quite balanced. I’ve read from some fellow commentators that they felt that the sherry influence here had removed the underlying Pulteney distillate character - I’d argue against that supposition – whilst certainly diminished, there’s still minerality and coastal quality to be found here. Not quite, but nearly a knock out.

Score: 87/100

Master of Malt
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