The Pulteney Distillery is based in the windswept heart of Wick. It is one of the most northerly distilleries on mainland Scotland – tiny in comparison to more modern distilleries but steeped in the rich fishing history of Wick.
Tradition itself is at the forefront of the distillation process and allows Old Pulteney malt to be proudly named “The Genuine Maritime Malt”. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson. Henderson was already an accomplished distiller, having over 30 years of experience behind him, but The Illicit Distillation (Scotland) Act 1822 led Henderson’s ‘small pot’ distillery in Sibster to be shut down. Many more local and unlicensed distilleries also closed. At this time the only real means for the transport of goods from the Highlands of Scotland was via the sea.
Wick was fast becoming a thriving industrial town and the home of Scotland’s largest herring fleet. Henderson chose it as the site for his newly formed and fully licensed distillery. Since its foundation the distillery has experienced a turbulent past, passing from one owner to the next over the years. Pulteney closed in 1930, like many other distilleries, due to the mostly forgotten Temperance (Scotland) Act 1913. This created a difficult time for the whisky industry and saw a drop in demand caused by the state of prohibition in many areas of Scotland.
The distillery reopened in 1950 following the lifting of Prohibition in 1947. It was now in the hands of Robert Cumming, a lawyer from Banff. Subsequently it was sold in 1955 to Hiram Walker And Sons Ltd under whose management it remained until 1995, when it was sold to Inver House Distillers. With only two stills – one wash-back and a single spirit still – you would imagine this distillery might face difficulties competing against its larger competitors. The unique quality of the whisky however, plus the traditional methods with which it is produced, ensure Old Pulteney remains in production to this day almost 200 years since the distillery was first opened.
That’s not all. This March the World Whiskies Awards took place in London with an unusually high number of entries. One of them was Old Pulteney 1989 Vintage – released in September last year after being matured in American oak barrels previously containing bourbon and heavily peated malt. It walked away with the coveted “World’s Best Single Malt” award. Considering the Pulteney Distillery released it to highlight their craftsmanship that’s a pretty telling result.