Old Pulteney Distillery Information

Until the revival of the Wolfburn distillery, the title of “Most northern distillery on the Scottish mainland” could be claimed by Old Pulteney, located the town of Wick in the northern Highlands of Scotland. Wick is an old fishing town that in the first half of the 19th century drew in thousands of thirsty fisherman every summer (herring season). Illicit distilling provided some of the ways for these fishermen to quench their thirst, but there obviously was a market there. Moonshiner James Henderson spotted an opportunity, and established Old Pulteney in 1826 in Pulteneytown, slightly south of Wick. The two towns have simply merged into the town of Wick nowadays.

The Old Pulteney distillery in the Highland town of Wick

The Old Pulteney distillery in the Highland town of Wick. Image copyright of Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The Henderson family remained at the helm of the Old Pulteney distillery until 1920, when it was sold off to Dundee-based James Watson & Co Ltd. In 1923, they themselves sold it to John Dewar & Sons Ltd. In 1925, it once again changed hands, this time to Distillers Company Ltd. (DCL). They decided to shut the distillery in 1930, and it remained inactive until 1951, when it was purchased by R. Cumming, who also owned the Balblair distillery at the time. Cumming renovated Old Pulteney, but failed to recoup his costs, and he ended up selling both Old Pulteney as well as Balblair to Hiram Walker in 1955. They rebuilt the distillery completely in 1959, and increased production, in order to meet demands from blenders.

The special stills at Old Pulteney

The special stills at Old Pulteney. Image copyright of Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky

In 1961, Hiram Walker was absorbed by Allied Breweries (change to Allied Lyons in 1981, and again to Allied Domecq Plc in 1994). Eventually, in 1995, the distillery found its way into the hands of Inver House, who started promoting it as a single malt whisky.

Old Pulteney Whisky

Old Pulteney’s stills are something unique. They look as if they originally were too big to fit the room, and especially the wash still appears to have been “cut down” in size to fit. This look is due to its flat top, which makes it appear as if a swan neck is missing. As if that wasn’t peculiar enough, the lyne arm protruding from the spirit still twists and bends, somehow conjuring mental images of a sousaphone. The still also has a particular bulb in its neck; a treat the bottles reflect.

Old Pulteney is available in the following core range:

  • 12 Year Old; matured in ex-Bourbon casks
  • 17 Year Old matured in predominantly ex-Bourbon casks and some ex-Sherry
  • 21 Year Old; matured mostly in second-fill ex-Bourbon casks, and some first-fill ex-Sherry casks. The 21 Year Old contains a higher ratio of Sherry than the 17 Year Old
  • Navigator; Non-age statement.
  • 1990 Vintage Single Malt; matured in American ex-Bourbon and Spanish ex-Sherry casks that previously contained heavily peated whisky. Limited edition
  • 30 Year Old; matured in ex-Bourbon American oak
  • 35 Year Old; matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks
  • 40 Year Old
  • Flotilla
  • Duncansby Head; Non-age statement. Matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks
  • Noss Head; Non-age statement. Matured in ex-Bourbon casks
  • Pentland Skerries; Non-age statement. Matured in ex-Sherry casks
  • Clipper; Non-age statement. Matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks. Limited edition
  • Stroma; Not really a whisky, but a liqueur. “Stroma” is Norse for “island in the stream”.

Distillery info:

NameOld Pulteney
Water sourceLoch Hempriggs
Owned byInver House Distillers

Pulteney Distillery
Huddart Street

+44 (0) 1955 602 371

Visitor centreYes

Distillery Setup:

Mash tun5.1 tonnes1 (Stainless steel with copper lid, Semi Lauter)
Washback23,500 litres6 (Corten steel)
Wash still21,707 litres1
Spirit Still17,343 litres1
Expected yearly output in LPA (Litres of pure alcohol)1,00,000

Images copyright of Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky.