Any day with an Old Pulteney in my glass is a good day. But I have feeling that this is going to become a great day. The nose opens with a curious invitation: vanilla cream wedding cake icing, truculent lemons vaping under the bleachers, and a clove-studded mohair vest worn by a chinchilla. Then things settle out into a more straightforward tableau. It’s a snowman built out of watermelon balls, standing next another snowman made out of figs. They are in postures that mimic Plato and Aristotle in Raphael’s School of Philosophers in the Vatican. I can almost hear the fig man urge his friend to “save the phenomena.” But as ever, watermelon man points upwards. He is not listening to fig man.
The mouth rolls into me with more bright sweetness, and plenty of fruitiness. This is no cream bomb, but rather it features waltzing sultanas and cave-cooled apricots. A wicker basket woven from sage stems holding a Cornish game turkey. [Bill: Is that a thing?] [Stephen, Googling:Nope. Not a thing.] More explosions of fruit follow, enough to make us wonder if there has been late-night, dunnage warehouse fraternization with wine casks. We find the unmistakable notes of manna in it: honey, fig butter, pomegranate chutney, rosewater.
The finish is our conjoint memory of a night at The Alexander Bain in Wick more than five years ago. There, not far from the shadows of the stills, we came to know the complexity that Old Pulteney draws from the community surrounding it. There is, first of all, a broad-shouldered self-assurance that pushes all pretentiousness to the side. Then, a siren call for enjoyment, which starts with a mix of safflower oil, sardine grease, and etiolated house-made piston lube used to write cursive on a plate’s edge. And finally echoes of fruit, perhaps persimmon. All of it perfectly balanced with the wood, as if darting droplets of molten mercury hold it in a firm embrace.
On the scale of philosophers depicted in Raphael’s School of Athens–
The Old Pulteney 25 Year Old is Claudius Ptolemy–A speaker of Greek during the empire of Rome, Ptolemy’s researches span the—
–Hey, did you hear the one about two astronomy students caught cheating on the exam? When the Professor asked one who told him that the Sun revolves around Earth, he gestured to his friend and said, “He Ptolemy.”
–Our thanks to Old Pulteney for the sample!