Founded in 1826 by James Henderson at the height of Wick's celebrated herring boom, the Pulteney Distillery is one of the most northerly Scotch whisky distilleries on the British mainland.
At a time when road links to the town were yet to be established, the distillery was dependent on the sea for its supply of barley and for the shipping out of its malt whisky. Wick became known for the barrels of silver (herring) and gold (whisky) which left the port in vast numbers.
When the distillery was being bought by James Watson in 1920, the new owner could not have suspected that only two years later, following a majority vote in the local ward, Wick would become a 'dry' town. The complete ban on alcohol licences within the Royal Burgh remained in force for twenty five years to a day, twice as long as the Prohibition in the United States. And so every year on the 28th of May Wickers celebrate the repeal with a wee dram or two.
The prohibition in Wick as well as the economic depression that followed spelled trouble for Pulteney Distillery. In 1930 the production ceased and the distillery was mothballed for over twenty years. In 1951, when the demand for whisky in post-war Europe started growing, the site was acquired by Robert “Bertie” Cumming, a solicitor from Banff. The production restarted soon after and has not stopped since.
Following another change in ownership in 1955, this time to James & George Stodart Ltd, a subsidiary to Hiram Walker & Sons, the distillery underwent major refurbishment from 1958. The traditional floor maltings were decommissioned as part of the project. Today the space is adapted for a Visitor Centre.
Through acquisitions and changes in company structures the distillery ended up with Allied Domecq who in 1995 sold it to the current owners – Inver House Distillers. Under the new new ownership the Maritime Malt is launched in its now iconic guise – in 1997 Old Pulteney 12 Year Old is presented to the international audience. This hails the beginning of a new era.