As you drive towards Wick, the cliffs and the sea capture the essence of the wildness of the Highlands of Scotland, and with the ambiance of the North Sea, Old Pulteney Distillery has probably the most dramatic backdrop of all the Highland Distilleries. Established in 1826 by James Henderson, it has had many changes as with most Distilleries, including a a 25 year period when it was closed because Wick became a dry town. The 28th of May being a special day for the townsfolk, when they raise an arm to repealing of the ban of alcohol in the area.
The old sea dog Pulteney has it’s reception on an ordinary street in Wick. It’s almost as if you could open the door and step into someone’s front room. Instead, you go through into a wonderful shop with a nautical theme that gives you a feel for what’s to come. From there you walk down the plank to where the tour begins.
Through huge double doors you go out into a courtyard that could be a dockyard, and originally Old Pulteney relied on the sea for her raw materials. Onwards into the Distillery itself, and the maritime theme continues, with the whole Distillery feeling like you are in the bowels of a ship. It’s almost as if you can feel the waves rolling beneath your feet. Indeed a lot of the original Distillery men were fishermen as well.
The machines and tanks are in a small area, and this makes the Distillery have a very intimate feel. You wind upon yourself during the tour, and that adds to the fun and bewitching nature of this salty old sailor, for that is what Old Pulteney is, an old sailor who has sailed through hard times and come out the other side, with its sails set firmly into the wind.
Best of all, at the end you get to have a taste of the Whisky itself. It takes influences from the sea certainly, and its unique taste will have your taste buds singing.
© Gabrielle Balfour 2016