Monday, August 17, 2009

Old Pulteney 12 yr old - Single Malt Scotch Review



Much Public Acclaim
I bought a bottle of Old Pulteney 12 yr single malt Scotch tonight because I had read a lot of positive comments about it on a couple of whiskey website forums that I participate on. Moreover, Jim Murray, whisky authority, wrote that this whisky is "unashamedly excellent and deserves so much more recognition around the world." I had to decide for myself whether or not this single malt scotch is deserving of such praise.

Nose (undiluted)
Briny maritime air, restrained sweetness, rainfall, damp evening lakeside air, soft wood smoke, smooth peat.

Palate (undiluted)
Salty taste of the foaming sea, lemon rind, rosewood, a hint of Ocean Spray Cranberry Cocktail, faint oak.

Finish (undiluted)
Short but interesting. Notes of bacon, mackerel, kippers but rhubarb too, ginger and lemon again.

General Impressions
The lasting impression of drinking this is that of sea water. Just not very interesting. Simple in a word. It may be somewhat intriguing for some in terms of this sea salt based flavor profile which finishes with some lemon and a cleansing saline zest.  Not what I would call a complex single malt. This whisky is decent and reminds me of what comes out of Scapa.   Frequently on sale and that is when you want to grab it.

In terms of the praise for this scotch, it is not deserved, and I think Mr. Murray was given to a little hyperbole when he described this whisky as "unashamedly excellent." It's 'good' but not 'excellent.'  The flavors offered up are different than what is encountered in most other single malts, but, as I said above, the problem is that it is not complex and at times one thinks they are just drinking salt water out of the bottom of a beached boat.

P.S.  While I am not a huge fan of this single malt, one of my regular readers is.  Adam's positive review is available by clicking here


© Jason Debly, 2009-Present. All rights reserved.

33 comments:

  1. I can't believe it! I finally found a review that doesn't praise a particular scotch. Thank You! Based on most reviews I've read/seen, OK - all, up to this point, I was beginning to think that there wasn't one bad, or just OK, scotch out there. I was beginning to believe that they are all excellent and must buys!!

    Thank you for your honesty and keep it up!!

    I truly enjoy your blog.

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  2. Hi! Whiskie Newbie! Glad you like the blog. I really appreciate the feedback.

    I totally agree with your observation that the vast majority of tasting notes or scotch reviews seem to praise all scotch. Just doesn't make sense right? Well, they aren't all good. A lot are worthy, but there are several that are terrible. Another one to avoid like the plague is "Grant's Family Reserve." Absolute crap. And another one is "J&B".

    Anyway, thanks for posting. Your input is always welcome.

    Cheers!

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  3. While I appreciate your honesty in this review, I think you weren't particularly fair with your tasting. I have a bottle of this in my cabinet, have tasted it many times, and I simply don't understand the comparison to a "mouthful of seawater." While it certainly has a slightly salty nose and taste, you missed out on quite a bit of complexity by drinking out of a tumbler. While a tumbler would be fine for an Islay malt with a heavily peated nose that smells like a camp-fire, a Highland single malt really benefits from a more careful nosing. You were right in that it doesn't need water since there's very little burn. I would've given it more of a chance neat, nosed properly out of a tulip-shaped glass.

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  4. Hi Anonymous! I had a bottle of Old Pulteney when I did this review. Accordingly, I tasted it many times with consistently disappointing results as indicated in the review.

    With respect to your suggestion of drinking it out of a tulip-shaped glass, I am a bit mystified as to how it would improve (enhance complexity of the flavor profile) the tasting experience.

    I always thought that the chief advantage of drinking whisky out of a tuplip-shaped glass was to nose the whisky better. The shape of the glass 'traps' the aromas or concentrates them under your nose, whereas the tumbler, by its nature, can do no such thing. So, the tumbler delivers fainter aromas.

    In light of the above, I am unsure how the shape of the glass (ie. tumbler vs. tuplip-shaped glass) would enable or deliver greater complexity of the flavor profile. Nevertheless, I will try your suggestion in the interests of furthering our knowledge!

    By the way, it may be the case that the Old Pulteney batch of last year is a poor year. A friend of mine on the Whiskey Magazine forum also noted similar disappointing tasting results. He is in the United States. Maybe your bottle is from a couple of years ago and much better than this year's batch. Whiskey is organic material and therefore its flavor profile can change somewhat from year to year.

    Thank you for your input.

    Cheers!


    Jason

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  5. I do get the impression it was a bad bottle. This is now one of my favorites and I mostly get spicy notes, coffee, toffee and such, with a hint of sea in the background.


    Still, I'd be hard pressed to try something which dissapointed again as well, so I can imagine you won't be rushing out for a new bottle anytime soon.

    Cheerz, Boris

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  6. Hi Boris! What I am going to do is go to my local whisky bar and sample a dram of Old Pulteney and see if there is a difference between the bottle I had and it. Most people like this single malt. I just got nothing positive out of it. Maybe I had a bad bottle. Hard to say. Will have to investigate further.

    Thanks for posting.

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  7. First Jason Debly was yours 40% or 43%?
    I bought mine at 40% in Australia this year. I dont drink OP but have had similer disappointment with other drinks this year. I WISH there was a online public database this. The distiller and the store wont tell you this. Who will? By the way they were this year 1 walker black, 1 Teachers cream, dickel no 12 from the uk.

    2nd. To anyone like me and taste is very broad


    I bought this this year. Anyone like me and is very unsure on scotch,still trying to get one you just like, has not the biggest range of taste they like, but is considering this based on reviews this maybe another wasted $$. This is anything but refined to drink. It has this Sherbet Citrus Salt like big Tang zesty stock effect. Smell reeks (I'm not talking that bad spirits some cheap liqueur. But this reeked of something?)It is like dry and very very firm and stiff barley. you would need to work a lot of saliver to make it juicy and also what I call Fizzy Wood. Opposite to soft creamness. Maybe it's the quality of the reuse barrel.

    This is loved by all whisky connosr and they will tell you its good. Ralfy will tell you its good. If you complain you will get an odd look.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My bottle of OP was at 40%abv.

    Obviously from my reviw, I am not a fan. I do not understand the fascination. As for the Whisky Connosr site, I think the reviews are submitted by the public, though i am not sure. Certainly there are other sites on the web where the reviews are actually the press releases of the distilleries or multinational drinks companies. "Whisky Intelligence" is such a site, but they are up front about it. They tell you they post industry news and press releases.

    This blog of mine evolved out of my frustration with being unable to find honest and independent reviews of whiskies.

    Cheers!

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  9. Yes, I'm drinking it now, and the salty taste is too much.

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  10. This malt is the whisky equivalent of aquatic perfumes in the fragrance world. It alludes to the coal black sea off the North coast of Scotland.
    Doesn't taste like seawater; but in my dreams seawater should taste like this.
    Worth a paddle for sure.

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  11. I recently spent a week on holiday in Wick and after reading all the good reviews about this whiskey I thought I spend an evening sampling it. I have quite a varied taste and was presuming that this was a love it or hate it whiskey, I was right. It starts off quite Being quite smooth and sweet but the aftertaste is like bilge water! To say that I am surprised that this whiskey has been given the acclaim it has is an understatement. This is definitely the Marmite of the whiskey world.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous!

      "Bilge water" Ha! Ha! That's the perfect word for this weak 12 year single malt. Yes, it is very much like Marmite too.

      The only reason Old Pulteney 12 has become discussed more is because Jim Murray, in his purported "Whisky Bible" identifies the 21 year old as whisky of the year. I find Mr. Murray's choices of whisky of the year very odd and generally unreliable. I guess, Mr. Murray, is the Marmite to whisky criticism too.

      Delete
  12. Jason, Murray's praise for the Pulteney 12Y doesn't stand alone, even among the most well-known critics, writers and "malt media" personalities. Dave Broom, Michael Jackson and Dominic Rostrow comment similarly that the lean, salty and elegantly-fruited style has many fans. I enjoy Pulteney for its value too. There's no other single malt Scotch whiskey I'd rather drink for its price ($26 US), and many I never would buy again at double its price. I suspect that "brininess" as a significant flavor element is what displeased you; perhaps you will grow to appreciate it more, as you experiment with offerings from Jura, Springbank, Clynelish. Cheers, JK

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    Replies
    1. I am not a fan of overly briny malts (with the exception of Talisker that balances it well with other flavors).

      I may check this out again to see if my tastes have evolved a bit sometime though.

      Where I live, Old Pultney 12 is $48. If it was $26 I might like it more . . .

      Delete
  13. I love your blog, dude. A month ago I closed on a big real estate deal and wanted a top notch bottle to celebrate. I took Murray's advice and threw down $140 for the OP 21. And was absolutely impressed. Flavors in the extreme with a slightly sweet creamy kick towards the end. The finish is short, but to me, an exceedingly drinkable whisky that I immediately fell in love with. Sure, it's not really fair to compare a 12 with a 21, and I've not sampled the 12, but I'd be curious to see what you'd think of the 21.

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    Replies
    1. I have had the Old Pultney 21 and it is good. No argument here. The 12 is well not in the same ballpark of course. Avoid it, and just drink the good stuff!

      Delete
  14. I liked the Old Pulteney's hint of sea salt; but admittedly I live by the ocean and love the salt air so I enjoyed the added flavor, but I recognize it's not for everyone. On another note, I can't agree with you more about Grant's Family Reserve. I have a bottle and have been trying to figure out what to do with it. I hate to pour a Scotch down the drain. I finally discovered eating highly salty, pungently olive flavored crackers fits well with it. As well, lots of sea salt with garlic offsets it's long lasting bitter finish; makes it tolerable but not pleasant.

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  15. I have to say I was reasonably pleased with Pulteney, given the review of it here. Moreover,though I enjoy Ralfy's reviews, I do not think some of his opinions on whisky are correct, and so was curious. I found it to taste very vanilaish and soft, but with a big briny finish that just screamed "COAST O' SCOTLAND FOR YE!". I'm a big fan of the coastal whiskies, so this was a pleasant treat because the bourbon maturation offered a gentle yet flavorful progression to the finish. I would recommend this as a 12 Year Old, principally because I think it makes a gentle introduction to the West Coast highland malts (it took a second bottle to "get" Clynelish,and I swear I never bought the Springbank 10. Really, where has it gone??)
    On an unrelated note,I had a glass of Green Label alongside OP12, and couldn't get into it at all. Then again my current bottle is the enigmatic Linkwood 15,which I thought had distinct similarities to Green,but upon retasting the latter I thought not. Well,at least the bottle won't be wasted gathering dust.
    Huge fan of the blog, thanks very much!
    UK Student

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  16. Hello UK Student!

    Thanks for your comments.

    I must say that you should be careful not to write-off Green Label. I think tasting it along side Old Pulteney is a mistake. OP's flavors are probably interfering with your palate. Taking a taste of Green Label after OP would really corrupt your palate. Anyhow, just a thought.

    Cheers!

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  17. I recently bought an OP 12 yr from the Dubai duty free and wanted to get some review,so got to read Jason Debly and others review,before I opened the bottle on some ocassion,just only wish that I do not get carried away by the ' salty ' taste mentioned in most reviews.Just wish that I like it !!! Wishes from India.

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    Replies
    1. Well, I hope you enjoy it more than I have. Please feel free to comment again in order to let I and the readers know what you think of it.

      India is a country on my to-do list of travel. Must get to that great country that is home to legions of whisky fans, and is the home of Amrut!

      Delete
  18. I tried OP 12 on Ralfy's recommendation, but found it to be 90% harshness and bitterness, and 10% flavor. Something may have gone wrong with my taste buds in regard to scotch recently, as most blends and cheap single malts taste this way to me now. But I have bottles of Oban 14, Ardbeg Ugdwhatever, Laugauvlin 16, and while I'm not thrilled with them, they don't seem bitter or harsh. Kind of disappointing. Maybe bourbon is ruining my taste buds!

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  19. OP 12 harsh? Are you serious?? This is the most unharsh whisky I've ever had. I like OP because it has a unique and unpretentious attack. Sometimes I like getting away from "all the others".

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    Replies
    1. I need to update this review.

      I had it a couple months ago and it is not so harsh as just a seawater type malt.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  20. my nephew was in the seaforth highlanders and when they returned from iraq prince charles gave everyone a bottle of the 21 year in a special bottle - it was excellent - i do not agree with you for the 12 year - i find it to be very agreeable - of course my wife is from caithness so i'm a little biased - kevin

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    Replies
    1. I am sure the 21 yr old is much better than the 12. As for the 12, I dunno, still pretty mediocre with me, a lot of seawater. But hey, I should probably update this review.

      Thanks for commenting, welcome to the blog and I hope to read more of your comments.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  21. Good detailed analysis but I couldn't disagree more
    Perhaps a bad batch or its just not for you
    Thanks for the review either way

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  22. What I find most interesting about Jason is how he reacts. Given that most of his reviews are first reaction and not in overall context, rather than revisit without hubris he falls on his sword. Old Pulteney is fine scotch. It's weird and unique but quite good. A shame you don't get it.

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    Replies
    1. I never post a review without working my way to about half of the bottle. My notes are based on a couple of tastings.

      I am certainly opinionated, but that is my honest assessment. I think there are a lot of mediocre and even terrible whiskies out there and I am not prepared to praise them all.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  23. Having said that I like you and you are intelligent. I just chuckle at your presumption of authority at times. And make no mistake you are knowledgeable. And quite often correct. Just too opinionated and sometimes miss the mark.

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    Replies
    1. I just think it is important to stimulate debate. Certainly, if my tastes and reviews do not accord with your own, you should try to find a reviewer or bloggers whose opinion to resonate. His or her recommendations can be very helpful to avoid costly mistakes at the cash register.

      Delete
  24. I appreciate your reviews, they are really helpful. Of course I don't always agree but I still value your reviews. After all, we learn more from those we disagree with than those we do agree with.

    I am a big fan of OP 21 and would like to ask you if you can advise me some other malts based on that. I'm ready to branch out and try something new!

    Thanks in advance,
    Steven

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    Replies
    1. Anyone who likes Old Pulteney needs to try the classic Talisker 10 yrs single malt. I am sure you would enjoy it.

      Cheers!

      Delete