Wales is not renowned for its whiskies, but for nearly 10 years now, Penderyn has seen to change that perception with its award-winning range.
The Welsh Whisky Company was founded in 1998 and in the turn of the new Millennium, a group of friends set out to become the first Welsh distillers in over a century. The first spirit ran from the stills of the Penderyn Distillery (located within the Brecon Beacons National Park) in September of 2000 and the first whisky was launched on St David’s Day, 1st March 2004 in the presence of HRH Prince Charles.
So how does Penderyn differ to all the others? And more importantly, what makes it award-winning?
Using malted barley supplied by Welsh brewers S. A. Brain & Co. in Cardiff, the barley wash is heated within a single copper pot still (created by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday). The column above the still has a number of perforated plates and the vapour will condense on the first plate before being returned to the still. As the process continues, the vapour will reach the second plate and so on, before evaporating and falling back to the still. Eventually the spirit is drawn from the seventh plate on the second column and flows into the spirit safe. This long process actually improves the spirit and removes many of the undesirable chemicals that are found, something that a conventional two or three pot still system cannot achieve. The end result is a spirit of 92% abv which is the highest strength of any malt whisky, as well as producing just one barrel every day meaning Penderyn is also exceptionally rare.
The spirit is combined with water from the Penderyn Distillery’s natural spring, located underneath the distillery, and is reduced to cask strength 63.4% abv. Penderyn then uses two types of cask for maturation. After an initial maturation in hand-selected Buffalo Trace barrels, the whisky is further matured in Madeira casks.
So how does it all fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on some of their range either sampled at home or when I visited their distillery –
Penderyn Madeira – 46%
Light on the nose but with sweet honey notes lingering around. Sharp citrus cuts through on the palate, with a dry spice and hints of green fruit coming through. Creates a long finish.
Penderyn Peated – 46%
Aged in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-peated Scotch whisky casks. Light whisps of smoke on the nose followed by a surprisingly smooth palate. The thick smoke flavour comes through soon after with a hint of vanilla coming through. Very long finish.
Penderyn Sherrywood – 46%
Aged in ex-bourbon barrels and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Sweet on the nose with barley coming through near the end. Developing spice on the palate with a dry sherrywood flavour coming through dominant. Rather warming as it lingers near the end. Sharp.
Penderyn Portwood – 41%
Finished in port wood. Bold nose of port with a slight sweetness of dark chocolate and honey coming through. Smooth honey flavours on the palate, with a sharp yet developing flavour of port that lingers, becoming soft and dry on the finish.
Penderyn 41 – 41%
Matured in bourbon casks and finished in Madeira casks. Very light on the nose with plenty of sherry aromas. Bold on the palate with a lively, fruity flavour creating a long finish.
Penderyn Bourbon Single Cask – 62.4%
Soft bourbon on the nose with notes of corn present. A sweet start on the palate, but develops a bitter texture with a slight spice creating a bit of heat on the finish.
Penderyn Sherrywood Single Cask – 50%
Soft cherry on the nose with plenty of soaked wood aromas with a slight sweet plum scent coming through. Sharp black berry flavours on the palate creating a long and lively feel. Mellows to a soft, slightly dry finish.
Brecon Gin – 40%
This is flavoured with Juniper from Macedonia, orange peel from Spain, Chinese cassia bark, Sri Lankan liquorice, Madagascan cinnamon, French angelica root, Russian coriander, Indian nutmeg, Spanish lemon peel and Italian orris root. Soft spice on the nose with a citrus punch following. Very smooth on the palate, with a gentle vanilla flavour creating a dry finish.
Brecon Botanicals Gin – 43%
Based on pure grain spirit and a special selection of botanicals. Soft citrus on the nose with juniper and herb aromas coming through. Very smooth on the palate, with cucumber and sharp hits of herbal flavours present.
Merlyn Welsh Cream – 17%
Made from Welsh “malted barley spirit” and fresh cream. Smooth hazelnut aromas on the nose, with a silky texture on the palate that creates a creamy dry finish that lingers.
Brecon Five Black Vodka – 43%
Five times distilled and charcoal filtered. Very smooth on the nose, with high feints of new make spirit present. Very smooth to begin with on the palate, develops a sharpness soon after though. Lingers to a dry finish.
A fantastic portfolio, and versatile enough to even go with one of these –
Peat and Maple
50 ml of Penderyn Peated
10 ml maple syrup
2 dashes of angostura bitters
Segment of orange
Pour all ingredients in whisky tumbler, add ice and stir.
Sometimes the most simple cocktails are the best. Penderyn is becoming more and more available in the bars around the UK, and indeed worthy of a purchase it you ever fancy something a little different. Remember, there’s nothing wrong in drinking whisky from Wales!
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.