If I was asked the question, “What makes you really thirsty?” chances are I’d have several answers; eating popcorn, bacon, toast with Marmite, or even Chinese food. I would most likely not answer, “Going fishing.”
Yet, it turns out herring hunting is a withering affair. 500 gallons a day of thirst quenching liquid was needed for the fishermen of one particular Scottish town back in the middle of the nineteenth century.
This might not be such an eyebrow raiser if the requested liquid was something like water, or iced tea, or Florida orange juice. Instead, much to the dismay of the local minister of Wick, the chosen beverage was whisky.
Thank goodness James Henderson’s distillery, Old Pulteney, was up for the challenge to slake the thirst of all those dehydrated salty sea dogs.
Not surprisingly, plenty of folks on the vicar’s side were determined to save Pulteneytown from Beelzebub’s attempt to transfer Wick into Wicked. 1922 brought with it an overwhelming vote to see the town go dry. The chief flag waver in favor of the ban was the leader of the Wick Salvation Army Group, most appropriately named, Captain Dry.
Perhaps those in favor of a tipple or two after work may have had a chance to continue enjoying the privilege had they actually shown up at the town hall to vote. Instead, they stayed in the pubs to show support of their local branch of the License Holders Defense Association who collectively made the mistake of price slashing the cost of a drink that day.
A fine marketing plan that likely left many scratching their heads.
Of course, the landslide victory for the prohibitionists was doubtless met with much back slapping and the comely phrase, “We rock! Now let’s go celebrate with a glass of water.”
So Wick’s days of silver and gold were halved to include only the silver bits. It was still legal to fish for herring, but the bullion-colored whisky was shipped and sold elsewhere. Pickle a herring and you’re doing a fine day’s work. Pickle a fisherman and you’ll be strung up by yer wee toesies.
With the ban on alcohol sales in place until 1939, the distillery closed its magic gates and went silent for the next twenty years. Several attempts from hopeful hands were made to bring the Maritime Malt back into production and the distillery experienced many openings and closings, remodeling and expansions.
Currently the distillery is owned and operated by Inver House Distillers. Their line of offerings includes the 12, 17, award winning 21, and 30 year olds, not to mention their historical nod to one of Wick harbor’s last remaining drifter boats, the Isabella Fortuna (WK499), and a whisky liqueur.
By ticking off the boxes in the flavor camps–everything from fruit and spice to smoke and salt–there’s surely something that will tickle your fancy.
With a catch like this, the Old Pulteney distillery is capable of tempting even the strongest of teetotalers.