A new trio of Old Pulteney single malts timed for Christmas...

… and the ideal excuse to get into the festive spirit

Old Pulteney single-malt Huddart, £45
Old Pulteney single-malt Huddart, £45

The importance of taste aside, much of the wonder of a good single malt lies in the story behind it – and the provenance of Old Pulteney has always appealed to me. Not only is it produced in one of the Scottish mainland’s most northerly distilleries, it’s made using purified water from Loch Hempriggs that’s supplied by a lade constructed by the celebrated Scottish engineer Thomas Telford (designer of, among other great structures, the Menai Suspension Bridge). Add to that the fact that Old Pulteney was once declared “World Whisky of the Year” by Whisky Bible author Jim Murray, and it soon becomes clear that any new addition to the range should be on the radar of even the mildest of aficionados. So Wick distillery’s recent announcement of no fewer than three new expressions is clearly big news.

Old Pulteney 15-year-old single malt, £70; 18-year-old single malt, £115
Old Pulteney 15-year-old single malt, £70; 18-year-old single malt, £115

I managed to secure some generally unobtainable miniatures to test, only to discover, of course, that they are all worthy of a place in the drinks cabinet – albeit on different levels. My clear favourite of the trio also happens to be the least expensive at £45. Called Huddart after the name of the street where the distillery was founded in 1826, it’s a non-aged single malt that’s been finished in casks that formerly held peated whisky – thus creating the smoky character that I’m fond of, which is enhanced by the slightly salted background that’s attributed to Old Pulteney’s coastal location.

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Next comes a decidedly seasonal-tasting 15-year-old (£70) that’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to drinking a really good Christmas cake – it’s fragrant, spicy and sweet – while the pièce de résistance of the new range (price-wise, at least) is the £115 18-year-old that’s matured in American oak casks and Spanish sherry butts to produce a fabulous deep-amber colour. Its taste combines the flavours of the 15-year-old with a more zesty, citrus finish that makes it best served neat with a single cube of ice. Although each to their own, of course...

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