Whisky Tour – Old Pulteney Distillery

On the third day of the trip, we started our descent south from Thurso toward Inverness and the next logical stop was Old Pulteney Distillery as we took the coastal road. The distillery resides inside Wick so it’s one of the rare cases where a distillery resides inside an urban zone and it wasn’t easy to spot the entrance, especially when you’re in a hurry to get to the tour.Old Pulteney

We hurried inside to start the tour and to play detective. I had an important mission to find out who’s the handsome guy who is a good virtual friend and also posing as a fellow blogger that I never met before 😉

Luckily I didn’t have to exert my few grey cells as it’s been only us in the tour, making it a cozy, warm and full of laughs tour. It must be noted that the our lovely and charming guide Kathie helped too toward this goal. In fact, the tour guide is the most important component from the distillery side. A good guide will make the tour unforgettable while a bad guide can ruin a tour even at your favorite distillery.

And so we toured, cheerful and energetic, stopping at all the obligatory stations. the only negative: it was a quiet day dedicated to maintenance, so there was a low-key energy around, like a big bear sleeping.

First important stop: the mashtun. The mashtun was empty and ready for action. In Old Pulteney, the mashtun works nonstop for 12 days before it goes on a well deserve break of two days used for cleaning, maintenance and rest before going through the same cycle over and over again.

Old Pulteney mashtun

Old Pulteney mashtun

There are 6 washbacks in Old Pulteney, all colored green but five are made of Corten steel and one of stainless steel. I assume one day they all will be stainless steel. Anyway, in Old Pulteney there’s fermentation time of 50 to 56 hours.

Old Pulteney washbacks

Old Pulteney washbacks

Next stop: Stills room. I was really waiting to see the Old Pulteney unique stills with my own eyes and oh boy, I wasn’t disappointed. The wash still (left picture below), doesn’t have a standard neck (usually called swan neck) and the legend say that on still delivery it was found to be too high for the still house so it was cut down. Also, both stills have large bulbs above the main still body generating extra reflux and a cog factor in Old Pulteney spirit character. In fact, grab an Old Pulteney bottle and you’ll notice it has the same bulb on the neck to reflect this setup.

Old Pulteney wash still

Old Pulteney wash still with the weird neck

Old Pulteney still

Old Pulteney spirit still


Kathie and Old Pulteney spirit safe

Kathie and Old Pulteney spirit safe

We went outside to see the worm tubs, since we were on maintenance break, we could see the worm tubs naked in their ‘bath’ without their usual cooling water. As you can see, it’s not the standard rounded coils setup.

op worm tubs

‘Naked’ Old Pulteney worm tubs

Onwards to the next station – casks filling station. As you can see, they have a double pump setup so they can fill 2 casks simultaneously

op double pump

From the casks filling station we moved to the warehouses (my favorite part of every tour). At the dunnage warehouse (one of three in Old Pulteney), we found some surprising graffiti. Yes, we were assured by Kathie it’s just a graffiti and doesn’t mark the casks owners. In fact, when you think of it, it does seems reasonable that English will be used for such marking and not Hebrew and it will be in the casks/warehouse logbook (Right Anat?).

warehouse graffity

As we moved between the warehouses, we encountered a large amount of barrels off the racks sitting on the warehouse floor:

Old Pulteney casks for 12yo

We soon found out that those 40+ casks were patiently waiting to be rolled out from the warehouse to be vatted together and then bottled as a new batch of Old Pulteney 12 year old. How many bottles would be bottled from those casks? There’s never an exact answer as it depends on how much liquid was left in the barrels (post angels share) but I think we can reasonably assume it will be over 12000 bottles of OP 12. Overall currently there are over 24,000 casks in the warehouses so this batch is almost insignificant in comparison.

After the tour, it was time for a tasting, but instead of going back to the visitors center and enclose ourselves in a room, we instead had a whole warehouse to ourselves as a tasting room, providing special background and atmosphere.

Old Pulteney tasting room

We were pretty excited to taste the this lineup which included the 35yo limited edition (spoiler: It’s pretty good and the standard bottlings aren’t too shabby!).

op tasting lineup

I have previously reviewed Old Pulteney 12 here so lets skip it and move on to the rest of the lineup:

Old Pulteney 17 yo (46%, £59.99/€69.99)

old-pulteney-17-years-oldNose: Starts with gentle sweet fruit joined with honey. There’s strong greenery notes along with green spices, cereals, vanilla and after a few minutes even red fruits cake.

Palate: Oh, it’s quite spicy, once again those green notes show up here but with fresh fruit sweetness lurking behind, honey & vanilla.

Finish: Medium length with oak and spiciness and sweet honey playing 2nd violin.

Old Pulteney 21 yo (46%, £92.99/€99.99)

old-pulteney-21-years-oldNose: It’s not as sweet on the nose as the 17 yo but it does feels rounder and with less greenery notes. There’s honey, a touch of salt and fruit bag in the background

Palate: More in line with the 12 yo as there’s salt, sweet honey, semi-sweet dried fruit at the background. very mellow and rounded and the 20% sherry casks here do lends some fruity and lovely character

Finish: Medium length. It’s mellow, lingering sweet. Honey and fruit. Lovely stuff.

Old Pulteney 35 yo (42.5%, 1350 bottles, £487.03/€589.99)

Old Pulteney 35 years old single maltNose: Very mellow, with darker sweet sherry, touch of peat and a hint of sour berries but not as strong as on the 21 yo, sweet berries, whiff of  flowery perfume sherry.

Palate: Gentle, sour sweet berries, smoke, peat, rounded and balanced, plums, touch of licorice, nice sherry impact despite being only 20% of the vatting.

Finish: Medium length, lingering sherry sweetness, touch of sour, smoke, honeyed

We ended the tasting with a dram of the bottle your own cask, a 14 year old matured in an ex-bourbon cask. I didn’t take full tasting notes as it was under influence (of the 35 year old that is) but here are the overall impressions:

Old Pulteney 2000 14 yo Bottle Your Own (distilled 2/10/2000, cask #1408, 58.1%)

op byoNose: heavy ex-bourbon influence, lots of honey and a hint of spice.

Palate: Lots of salt, honey and fruit sweetness, oak wood spices

Finish: Long finish with lingering sweet honey and salt at the backseat.


And then when we tried to get out of our “tasting room” only to find outwe’re locked in. First thought that crossed my mind: Hey, we won’t die of thirst :-D, But before we could actually find some decent cask to start with, we were released from our “jail”. oh well 🙂

Bottom line: It was a great tour. You just can’t beat a cozy and small group tour with friends. Meeting at last a friend and a fellow blogger is always an extra perk. I rank this tour as one of the top 3 tours I had during this trip. Highly recommended distillery to tour.

Name: Old Pulteney Distillery
Owners: Inver House Distillers
Location: Wick, Caithness
Water source: Loch Hempriggs
Stills: 1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
Capacity (yearly): 1,800,000 litres

Tour in a nutshell

Tours availability: See on their site
Cost of tour: £6-£45
Length of tour: 1 hour – 2 hours
Distillery Exclusive bottles: One or two (depends on your luck)
Food: No.


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