Happy 2016 With… A Very Special Old Pulteney!
I’ve stated it before but I’ll do so again: Pulteney is my first whisky love, particularly the 17yo. So what better way to start 2016 with a really cool and special Pulteney? This post is about a new single cask Old Pulteney 1997/2015 Ambassador’s Cask for Sweden, picked by David Tjeder and Frida Birkhede. They won a competition by Allt om Whisky, Sweden’s largest whisky magazine. Their reward? Visit (and work at) Pulteney for a few days and select a single cask for the Swedish market. How cool is that!
At my request David wrote a recap of his adventure at Pulteney. I suggest you read it, but if you’re just interested in my tasting notes, you should quickly scroll down.
Here David tells about the competition from Allt om Whisky:
I can’t remember how many applicants there were exactly, but it’s in the thousands, like 2000–3000 people applied. The only thing one was supposed to write was like a two-page letter explaining why it would be a good idea to be awarded the scholarship. As for each year, two people were given the scholarship: me and Frida Birkehede.
On spending time at Pulteney distillery:
We spent four days there, 22–25 of March 2014, having all kinds of great adventures, taking a boat trip on the sea to the Noss head lighting house, seeing Wick heritage center (if you ever visit Pulteney distillery, this is an absolute must, such a cool place), working in the distillery very hands on with the mashing, taking notes on the wash and learning about cut points for the newmake, doing whisky tastings, rolling casks into the warehouses, having lunches with Malcolm Waring, interviewing people at the distillery, etc. A truly singular experience, and my first ever visit to a distillery in Scotland, so that’ll be hard to beat. I had only visited one distillery prior to that, the Swedish Box distillery!
On the pressure that comes with choosing which single cask to bottle:
The choosing of the casks was great fun but with quite some pressure added. Very many whisky friends had told me things like “you’d better choose a good cask now, David…” – and knowing that the extremely well-informed Swedish whisky audience/market would analyse the hell out of the whisky once bottled was quite unnerving, too…!
On what casks he and Frida were allowed to choose from:
We had four casks to choose from, all distilled in 1997, all in first-fill bourbon barrels. I think that was a very clever move on Malcolm Waring’s part, giving us similar whiskies rather than creating a debate between young versus old, bourbon versus sherry matured, et cetera. And indeed, even with the same age and the same kind of casks, the four whiskies were very different from each other. I did not take notes other than on choice, knowing that I had no use for concentrating on tasting notes from the casks; it was all about ”which whisky do we choose?”
On how he and Frida eventually chose which cask to bottle:
It took around ninety minutes, I think, to come to the conclusion of cask 1085. One of the four casks stood out but in a more negative way, not as a bad whisky, but as very ”un-Pulteneyesque”; one, I first had on my top two and Frida on her bottom two, so that cask had to go. In the end, it stood between the cask we chose and another cask, which was actually better on the palate, but the nose and even more so the finish was better on cask 1085.
On reaffirming their choice once back in Sweden:
We got to take small, 3 cl samples from the four casks with us home, but the choice was made then and there. On my suggestion, me and Frida then tasted the samples from the four casks blind when we tried them several months later, so that no preconceptions would cloud our judgements. Again, I had a hard time choosing between two of the blind samples, but ended of choosing the same cask I had chosen on site, and Frida, on her end, made the same choice. We were both UTTERLY relieved when we learned that both of our blind tastings had led to the same choice, and that that choice was the same cask which had already been decided for bottling.
Now how did I find out about this bottling? A couple of months ago I came across the newly founded Facebook-group called Old Pulteney Appreciation Society. As an avid Pulteney-fan I had to join, and a post about a new single cask for Sweden immediately caught my eye. Since whisky in Sweden can only be bought via the Systembolaget (government owned chain of liquor storer) I knew it would be hard for me to get my hands on a bottle. So I decided to contact David Tjeder.
And this is what’s so cool about the whisky community. It didn’t matter to David that he (probably) had no idea who I was, he decided he wanted to help me out anyway. So within a couple of weeks the bottle of Pulteney arrived safely at my doorstep. We also traded some samples. And when he visited The Netherlands recently, I urged him to visit The Old Pipe, which is (as far as I’m concerned) the best whisky shop we have. Luckily, David seemed to agree 🙂
A very long introduction for tasting notes, I know. Thanks for being patient and there they finally are. Spoiler alert: this Pulteney is awesome!
Old Pulteney 1997/2015 (53,4%, OB ‘Ambassador’s Cask for Sweden’, C#1085)
Nose: As almost always with Pulteney, the nose is velvety smooth and somewhat waxy, albeit it a bit subdued at first. Freshly cut green apples, with touches of wet grass and green tea. Also cookie dough. Finally citrus fruit, with mainly lemon and a hint of grapefruit.
Taste: Trademark Pulteney. Creamy and super smooth, no water needed. Some vanilla, but also ginger and mainly lemon (zest). A tad drying with a touch of salt and also some coconut shavings.
Finish: More lemon, wood spices and a bit of oak. Ends with notes of smoked salmon.
Yes! This is why I love Pulteney. I absolutely adore this whisky. Single casks from Pulteney are a rarity, so this is a real treat. Thank you David and Frida for picking this cask!
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.