Old Pulteney; the demon’s drink.

Marmite jars

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.

English: Removal of liquor during prohibition

English: Removal of liquor during prohibition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”

English: Wick - Harbour Scene - "The Herr...

English: Wick – Harbour Scene – “The Herring Season”

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.

Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival

Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival (Photo credit: IrenicRhonda)

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.


Don’t forget to check out what I blethered on about this week on the main post page (here) and find out what’s cookin’ in the scullery too (here)!


6 thoughts on “Old Pulteney; the demon’s drink.

  1. thanx again, another fun thirst-provoking essay on yet another of those hitherto-obscured corners of whiskey-dom!
    (minor coincidence, –> whatever scotch is fashioned by “the 16 men of tain” (glenmorangie?) … i stopped to peruse a bottle last Wednesday and thought about it. bought woodford’s slightly upper shelf instead. visit the son up in his town, ski-town, steamboat last weekend and he gives me a bottle of THE SAME STUFF. )

    • Wait–he gave you the scotch or the bourbon?
      Either way, you’re drinking fine spirits. Glenmorangie is quite a brilliant distillery with a few expressions that would totally knock your socks off, and Woodford’s Reserve is the only bourbon I keep in the house as the rye cuts right through the corn’s sugary sweetness. A lovely peppery kick.
      Good bottles all around.
      Hope you get to try Old Pulteney. It’s spectacular.

  2. sorry: i didn’t SPECIFICATE, diddn’t i? –> he gave me the Glen. my me(s)mory has gotten so bad it’s enuff that i (w)remembrrr woodford’s –> but i bought a different blend/product. and … i had an old pulteney (i WON’T tell you what i called it, but rhymes w/ “roodendaw”) a few years back which was probably not only “bottom shelf” but not up to the glowing (w)reckummendayshunz i often hear about the brand.

    • Glad you got the Glen. Really hope you like it.
      As for the Maritime malt, I often find that Pulteney is a great whisky gift to people I know who have had a little experience with the spectrum of spirit flavors available, as it subtly introduces “the sea” into the available profiles they might not have tried just yet. Plus, the shape of the bottle is kinda funky. I love it.

      • i’ll give ol’ P another try. i should keep dialogue on topic, but i bought a 10th Mtn Div. (bourbon), wish i could remmbrrr the name but the pri¢e was a smidg > $50, took it to Oregon, drank most of it. but left a liddl 4 the sonninlaw(r). sumtimes (tho’ breeeflee) i wundur “what’s wrong” with me, i prefer the bourbon, rarely the skotsch …

        • Raised with a sweet tooth maybe? All that corn is a bit too sugary for my tastebuds–but rest assured, that was a many year process of developing a taste for flavors and aromas other than the sweet side of the spectrum.
          Maybe you want to try some of the scotches finished off in port woods or Madeira. Stay further south with your location of distillery choices. The Lowlands and many of the Speysides have lovely notes of caramel, butterscotch, cereals and heather. All good stuff.

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