From one of the most northerly distilleries in Scotland comes Old Pulteney Navigator, an offering that brings subtle complexity and youthfulness. Over the last few years we have seen more and more distilleries jumping on the no age statement bandwagon.
The question we need to ask is why? Why are we seeing more and more elaborately named single malts creeping onto our store shelves? Are the days leaving us that we can depend on that bottle of Laphroaig 10 or say the Glenfiddich 12?
Highly unlikely but we are seeing these stylishly named expressions in our glasses far more frequently these days. One of which I have in front of me this evening. The Navigator expression from Old Pulteney is a new bottling from the latter half of 2013. Essentially what we have here is rather a young whisky but is very much in line with the profile flavour from Old Pulteney.
I have the pleasure of sipping this single malt with my brother in law Steve this evening who has a fine palate. I’ve asked him to note down some of his tasting notes including a short review and here’s what he put down. It’s best to taste whiskies with good company after all!
Pungent and intense with a distinct brininess – really makes you think of the sea. Slightly harsh alcoholic notes that haven’t been rounded out, a hint of nail varnish remover in there. I pick up a little curacao orange and a hint of marzipan.
Distinctly light and quite thin, this starts small.
The taste develops moving through a slight harshness in the middle, showing its youth, with a distinct burn and some spiciness in it. Breaking the surface builds this substantially compared with tasting straight and helps round it out, but the youth shows in an unrefined somewhat harsh burn.
The after-taste is where this delivers with lingering brine and distinct saltiness, balanced somewhat by a sherry sweetness.
Lives up to its claim to be “the maritime malt” as the sea is written through this thoroughly. The extra strength gives it some oomph lacking in the tame 40% of the 12y.o. but its at the price of smoothness or developed complexity. If you like Old Pulteney and that maritime salty kick you’ll enjoy this, enjoyable but lacking distinction.
On the whole I have to agree with what Steve has said here. These are his tasting notes and I’m pretty sure if you taste this yourselves you may pick out differences. One section of the tasting notes Steve mentions that this Navigator is slightly harsh and has alcoholic notes that have not been rounded out. For me this is an excellent well educated note.
The reason is very simple and is my single main bone to pick with distilleries and their no age statement releases.
What’s happening here is that the distilleries are getting away with bottling at a far younger age than normal by finishing off or acing as Bruichladdich have named it in an extra cask. Distilleries claim they are moving in this direction out of the demand for single malts although I’m not so sure this whisky boom is as revolutionary as they claim so be aware!
Some no age statement whiskies carry great flavour and maturity even at a young age.
This is because some distilleries are investing in high quality casks that deliver this maturity far quicker than old tired casks which can give off notes and leave the spirit a bit rough. Some distilleries get away with this and some don’t but this is for your palates to discover.
This Old Pulteney Navigator has spent the majority of its short maturation life in ex bourbon barrels but has been finished off for a period of time in Spanish ex sherry cask most likely Pedro Ximenez but it has not been made publicly known.
The three main positives for me with this release is that the ABV has been pushed up to 46%,(likely because it needs to be) it is unchill filtered leaving in all those lovely oils from the malted barley and it is also bottled at a natural colour so no deceiving caramel colouring E150!
Now you may be thinking at this point that our review of this Old Pulteney has been rather put down. As with all my reviews I state the facts for the whisky fans and connoisseurs out there so we are all that bit better educated on our purchasing decisions. Overall for me this Navigator expression is a superb quality bottling from Old Pulteney.
It’s full of flavour and has masses of that maritime character which we love! If you’re an Old Pulteney fan or if you’re in the early stages of your malt whisky journey go out and buy this as you won’t be disappointed. View this bottling as the next stage up in taste profiles if you’re well accustomed to their 12 year old.
The price isn’t bad either ranging from £30-£40 depending on offers. I for one would be very interested to hear what you think of this whisky as you navigate through the dram. Sláinte