SMWS 52.21 Tropical Breezes Fills the Sails

"Not my favourite cup of tea, I am afraid. I do not think that the re-racking has done much good to the spirit"

(Photo from Whiskybase)

SMWS 52.21

Old Pulteney 2001 (15 years)

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SMWS bottlings from Old Pulteney (or distillery #52 in SMWS code) are pretty rare with the previous one being released in 2014. Bottlings have mostly come from 1983, 1990 or 2001, the subject of this review being part of the latter. Like this one, previous 2001 vintages were matured in a refill bourbon cask, but the previous batches lacked a re-racking. Could it be that the selected casks were getting tired and needed some reinvigoration? Let’s hope not! Interestingly, I have not found any previous maturation or finishing of Old Pulteney in wine casks, neither from the SMWS nor other bottlers including the distillery. So this would probably be a first. We know that wine cask maturation can work, but you need a spirit that handle the wine. Oh, and in the next review I will taste the (now discontinued) 17-year-old from the core range of the distillery, which will make an interesting comparison.

Nose

The alcohol is very much present at first nosing, which goes together with a clear sense of red wine. Luckily scents of barley, honey and a few drops of sea water come through, so that we still have the feeling that we are dealing with whisky here. Anyway, water please! Oh yes, this is much better. I now get more notes of sweet honey, biscuits, maple syrup, and a large portion of orange peel. More water gives hints of lemon juice, honey-orange cake, orange sweets, with in particular jelly babies, and caramel toffee. I must say, I am happy that the cask influence took a few steps back after adding some water, although the nose is certainly not overly complex.

Taste

Fairly feisty with a numbing sense of alcohol and something that might be very strong red wine mixed with honey and barley. Water, anyone? After quite some drops of water I get a more pleasant mixture of red fruits, fresh figs, raisins and dates. We’ll add a few more drops to make sure we get the most out of it. The feeling that I had with the nose continues in the palate, the cask influence seems to numb some of the distillery character. In addition, the palate reveals more of the red wine cask finish with a mixture of red fruits, some sherry and a big bag of sweets. The finish is slightly drying and delivers hints of apple flambeed, Calvados and walnuts. Now that I read the description of the SMWS, we’ve come pretty close, haven’t we!? That’s a new, normally those descriptions primarily raise large question marks above my head. Anyway, anyone more wine, I mean whisky?

Overall

I do not think that the re-racking has done much good to the spirit, which has become sharp, acidic and slightly numbing. Not my favourite cup of tea, I’m afraid. Sometimes I wonder… why? What do wonder that I am wondering about? Finishes. I mean, if you have the ability to selected a cask full of excellent matured whisky, why would you alter it? Isn’t the whisky that good (so why select or release it in the first place) or is it a desire to put a personal mark to pretend it is you who actually made this spirit excellent. Anyway, these are just the rumblings of a humble blogger. And there a people who do like this kind of style, so I should not really bother to much. Please do take a look at my review of the 17-year-old whisky released by the distillery itself, which is rather excellent and shows what Old Pulteney can actually be like.

What others say

Whiskybase: 85.93 (17 votes) * The Dramble: 84/100 * Phillipstorry: 4/5
Read for yourself

A sample of this was provided by

Scores

these are my personal views, so do not take them too seriously… nothing beats tasting these for yourself •

Cask influence
75%
Peat/smoke
0.5%
Nose 81%
Taste 78%
Balance 75%
Depth 78%
Finish 75%
Score