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Old Pulteney

A community malt, you might say. This is right in the heart of the old part of Wick, very near the harbour. Not the most beautiful distillery in the world from the outside.

A community malt, you might say. This is right in the heart of the old part of Wick, very near the harbour. Not the most beautiful distillery in the world from the outside.

Huddart Street, Wick, Caithness, KW1 5BA, 01955 602371. Inver House Distillers. www.oldpulteney.com

APPEARANCE AND LOCATION:      **      One can forgive the modest location of the distillery, right in the heart of Wick near the harbour. Even in the courtyard, through the visitor centre, you forget the proximity to the sea.


‘Whisky Lovers’ Tour’: £4. See ‘My Tour’ below, although bear in mind that, with the addition of other tours to the roster, this may have received a revamp, too. With any luck the guide will have found her feet, too.

‘Masterclass Tour’: £15. A tour of the distillery followed by a sampling of the 12, 17 and the excellent 21YO.

‘Whisky Connoisseur Tour’: £30. Malcolm Waring, distillery manager, will look after you for this tour, and you are in exceptionally good hands. There is the entire range to taste, in addition to the extraordinary new make (very different to what you may expect if you are used to the 12YO) and the venerable 30YO.

DISTILLERY-EXCLUSIVE BOTTLINGS:        There is a bottle-your-own option of either a 1995 or a 1990 Bourbon cask: £50 for the former, £80 for the latter. There is also a selection of single cask bottlings on offer ranging in age from 13 to 19 years and again, £50 to £80 in price.

My Tour – 03/05/2010



Notes:      The mash house is taken up entirely by the mash tun, and other areas of the production have a feel of squeezing as much in as is architecturally possible. The still house, for example, has the spirit safe in the next room. There is a viewing platform between the one pair of stills which allows you to look deep into the worm tub tank. The filling store has a nice smell but it is just new Bourbon casks, waiting for their fill of spirit. I want salt, damp oak, and that heavenly sweetness of angels drinking. I want a warehouse!

The very original VC deserves a mention.

The very original VC deserves a mention.

GENEROSITY:      (1 dram as part of the tour: a choice between the 12YO or the Old Pulteney liqueur, which is quite nice, as it happens.)


SCORE:      2/10 *s

COMMENTS:      I’m afraid this isn’t a great one, and the chap who warned me at The Macallan and the couple who passed on similar dire reviews in Glenfiddich were proved right. It’s a shame because the distillery is utterly charming. It is built in to the old terraces and homes of Wick and can be quite cramped in places: a health-and-safety nightmare for your taller or wider tourists. It’s all part of the character, though, and is a timely reminder that these are working sites. The VC is done out to a really high spec and Prince Charles visited recently. (He gets to his fair share of distilleries, doesn’t he? If he wrote up his experiences he’d ruin my own credentials!) The very unusually-shaped stills with their worm tubs and the spirit safe almost in the next room are features I’ve seen nowhere else, or rarely. The problem was that our guide, though lovely, friendly, and exceptionally pretty, knew little more than what her rehearsed script contained. I had two Europeans with me and they were asking lots of questions she just couldn’t answer. By the end the look of fear in her eyes whenever they opened their mouths induced much pity on my part. There were lots of silences, too, which may have been because the other guys on the tour had lots of photos to take but a bit more banter would have been appreciated. It is such a shame because this is the flagship for the Inver House group; there being no visitor centres at their other distilleries. I feel they should take me on on a consultancy basis because it is a great whisky and more can be said about it than that it is the most northerly mainland distillery. Only worth a visit then if, like me, you are hell-bent on getting to as many as you can.

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May 9, 2010 um 5:29 pm
The Tours
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