Old Pulteney distillery was founded in Wick in 1826 and was for many years the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. Built during the town's 'herring boom', the distillery was only accessible by sea. Barley was shipped in and whisky was shipped out and many of the distillery workers were also herring fishermen. With over 7000 workers arriving in the town each day during herring season (and 500 gallons of whisky consumed per day!) Wick became a lawless place. Troops and gunboats were called in to keep the peace and the sale of alcohol was prohibited, a ban which lasted until 1947. The declining trade following the local prohibition caused Old Pulteney to close its doors in 1930.
The distillery was reopened in 1951 by Bertie Cumming, owner of Balblair, and from there changed hands several times until it was purchased by Inver House Distillers in 1995. Until then most of Old Pulteney's output went into blends, with some single malts bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. Inver House Distillers sought to build a strong single malt brand and released the first official bottling of a 12 Year Old in 1997, followed by a 17 and 21 Year Old in 2004 and 2005 respectively, with the latter being awarded World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray's 2012 Whisky Bible. The distillery paid homage to Wick's herring heritage with travel retail releases such as WK499 Isabella Fortuna, WK209 Good Hope and WK217 Spectrum all named after fishing vessels, bolstering Old Pulteney's position as The Maritime Malt.