Whisky Advocate

Guest blog #3: Northern Highlands

March 31st, 2010

Highlands and Western Coastal distilleries are all unique.  Pulteney Distillery (stills on top left) on the northwest coast is almost as isolated as those of Orkney – You really want to get there to visit and you won’t be disappointed.  Situated in the middle of Wick, you can see how the distillery grew around the fishing industry and the town, it has a unique feel. Inver House has reinvested in both Pulteney and Balblair as key single malt products; you can see it in the growth of the 12, 17 and 21 YO Pulteney bottlings. The visitor’s center here is beautiful and they also have the opportunity to bottle your own 13 or 19 YO Pulteney on site.  The 19 YO has a lot of peat influence. Rumor has it that it was aged in an Islay cask, if you get a chance you have to try it!

Our only Diageo distillery on this trip was Clynelish. Diageo runs its distillery tours in a very safe and modern way. Tours are nice, but carefully scripted and you will not find much flexibility in how they approach them (don’t wander off or you will get in trouble!).  They have a couple of distillery-only bottles you can purchase which is true of a number of Diageo distilleries.  We tasted the Cask Strength one here and it was excellent.  We also got to head down to Brora across the road and it was like going back in time, the stills and spirit safe are still in place. Even the filling station includes a cask of 1983 Brora just sitting there like it was just ready to be filled.  We really miss Brora.

Finally we visited both Glenmorangie and Dalmore. It’s my fourth trip to Glenmorangie and it is just a terrific place. Their still room (left) is truly something to behold, cue heavenly music here… They have somehow fit in four more stills in the last year. They also have a wonderful visitor’s center and tasting room. Seems that there is always a rare and tasty Glenmorangie on hand, Annette treats us well! Don’t miss this one.

Dalmore has also greatly expanded their visitor’s area and have distillery only bottlings available for purchase.  They also have one of the most unique still rooms in the industry, water jackets anyone? – Another must see. Richard Paterson caught up with us there and autographed bottling of their new Mackenzie bottle for everyone who purchased one! — B. J. Reed

10 Responses to “Guest blog #3: Northern Highlands”

  1. Duncan Ross says:

    I have only visited Glenmorangie but it is well impressive, this was just after the re-furbishment with the stills and washbacks gleaming. If you are lucky enough to get into the warehouses there are some amazing casks sitting there with dates going back a few years. Virtually all the barrels come from Jack Daniels Distillery and there is a nice selection of the ‘Artisan’ barrels for Astar lurking about. If you are near Tain go and visit it.

  2. Steffen Bräuner says:

    I have visited Old Pulteney twice with 2 years in between. The casks to bottle from were two different 15-16yo. Both were unbelievable good. I do like malt from excellent bourbon casks, full of vanilla and citrus. From the descriptions of what’s available now, it looks loke the trip up north is worth the travel time 🙂


    • B.;J. Reed says:

      Cute short story about Pultney – When we were there in 2001 it was a Saturday and Tanya Fraser who operates the visitors center was gracious enough to come in and give us a tour but she didn’t have a baby sitter so her daughter who must have been 5 or 6 at the time took the tour with us. When we arrived this time Tanya was there so it was great fun to show her pictures of her and her daughter from 2001. We were running to catch the Ferry to Orkney so we didn’t have time to bottle all the Pultney so she not only did that for us but then drove them all to Scrabster to meet us when we returned on the ferry from Orkney all boxed up and ready to go. What a wonderful thing to do. She and Malcom are the best!

    • Monique at the Dell says:

      The “bottle-your-owns” available at Pulteney right now were a 13 yo Bourbon cask, Steffen I agree that this means a fantastic fruity and mild briny Pulteney. Tasted it with a small group last night and this whisky won out of 8, Corryvreckan a close 2nd!
      The other bottling, which BJ mentioned in the intro was a 19 yo in a second fill Islay cask. Really amazing and complimentary peat content, unlike any Pulteney I’ve tasted.
      Both are worth visiting the distillery for, not to mention the great prices (13 yo was 50 pounds, 19 yo was 80) and hospitality!

      • B.;J. Reed says:

        Now Monique knows how to throw a tasting doesn’t she? 🙂 I wasn’t even invited 🙂

    • BigMac says:

      On our way to orkney we did a short stop there on a weekday in August 2009 just before 1600 when the distillery was about to close. Managed to get to bottle a 13yo from cask 2993 @ 61,8% which tasted wonderfully. There was also an older cask available to bottle but I don’t remember the details on it.

      Old Pulteney is be revisited for sure – will do it when I return to Orkney


  3. B.;J. Reed says:

    Embarrassing to say but we just ran out of time to do any warehouse visit – We did do that in 2007 with Graham Eunson who was distillery manager back then and is not at Glenglasssaugh – It is a treat if you can do it.

  4. Kelley says:

    I was lucky enough to be on this tour with the Dell gang. If these posts sound like fun, imagine how much fun it was to actually be there. I just wanted to chime in on the Clynelish/Brora tour. The juxtaposition of these 2 distilleries is what fascinated me. Like B.J. talked about, after the very clean, very to-the-point tour at Clynelish, we walked around Brora, peaking in the windows. There was no one to tell us how long the middle cut lasts or what barley they are using, but we could still see how the whisky was made. Yes, it was a little spooky seeing that dusty filling room waiting for its next work day, but it still had the tradition, romance, and history that Clynelish was missing, and its interesting that you can walk from one world to the other just by walking along that path between the two distilleries. Guess I’m a romantic, but it’s those stories and histories that I enjoyed most about our tours. Well, I enjoyed the tastings a lot, too,

  5. Chuck Meidlinger says:

    Fortunately I was able to snag the last bottle of the Clynelish distillery edition that was signed by the entire crew at the distillery. Found out that it was nearly impossible to get these bottles signed due to multiple shifts.


  6. John Hansell says:

    Thos are all great distilleries to visit. The contrast between some of these distilleries is very impressive.

    I, too, was taken back in time when I walked from Clynelish to Brora. It makes me covet even more the few distillery bottles I have of Brora. I also fondly remember a small wollen clothing shop in the town of Brora where I picked up a great hand-made wool sweater. (No tags or anything.) It keeps me warm when I’m out splitting wood or cross country skiing. (Although none of that for me for a while, thanks to my knee.)

    That second fill Islay cask Pulteney sounds very intriguing.

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