One of the UK's youngest
Today is St. David's Day - the national day of Wales - so it seems appropriate that this should be commemorated with a review of a very special whisky from the only Welsh distillery at Penderyn (pronounced Pen-derrin). The distillery is located in the village of the same name in the Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales and is owned by the Welsh Whisky Company. This was formed in 1998, with production beginning in September 2000 - this makes it one of the youngest distilleries in the UK. Penderyn is the first distillery to produce single malt whisky in Wales for over 100 years with the last one closing in 1900. That was named Frongoch and was located in the town of Bala in north Wales.
Innovative production methods
The production at Penderyn is unique and innovative. They buy pre-fermented wash from the local Brain's brewery in Cardiff and this is made to their specific recipe. They then distill this in to whisky. This is method is different to that of the Scottish whisky industry where at least some of the mashing and fermentation must happen on the same site as the distillation. The water used in production at Penderyn is taken from a well next to the distillery. The still room is also unique and houses a bespoke still designed by Dr. David Faraday, that is part copper pot and part column still. For further information on the unique methods used, then read the article about our visit to Penderyn.
Limited edition casking
Their range is small and consists of a regular bottling which is finished in Madeira casks, a sherry cask bottling and a lightly peated version. Limited expressions are also available, with other releases being planned as more stock reaches optimum maturation. This Port Wood was released in August 2009 and comes from a cask that was specially selected by Dr. Jim Swan, the Master Distiller for Penderyn. It was limited to just 207 bottles and cost £275 each. The alcoholic ABV is the natural cask strength of 60.6% and the whisky recently won the accolade of European Single Cask Whisky of the Year in The Whisky Bible 2010 by whisky writer Jim Murray. We were lucky enough to try it on our recent visit to the distillery.
Our tasting notes
The colour of Penderyn Port Wood is dark amber but with a distinct red hue, and it is certainly one of the darkest whiskies that we have encountered to date. The nose is rich and sumptuous with plenty of sugary sweetness (think of caramel or treacle), dried fruits (imagine raisins, candied peel and prunes), oranges and a hint of something dark/bitter like chocolate and coffee. On the palate, this whisky starts sweetly with the caramel/treacle note prominent and this is backed up by other sweet elements - dried fruits (especially those prunes), vanilla, cereal grains and a drop of orange marmalade. It then becomes woody and slightly bitter with some menthol, wood spice (think of cinnamon), dark chocolate and espresso coffee coming through. The finish long, dry and spicy with chocolate, dried fruits, vanilla and cinnamon standing out. Port Wood is very well balanced without water, especially considering the strength, but we decided to try it with a few drops of water. This gave more caramel and buttery toffee on the nose and palate and slightly flattened the enjoyable spiciness.
What's the verdict?
This is a rich and sumptuous whisky and may be too rich and heavy for some people. We really enjoyed it and think it is a lovely dram that feels like a treat to yourself. Port Wood is the most limited and expensive Penderyn whisky yet and only you can decide if it is worth the money! They told us that they still have a couple of bottles left, so hurry if you wish to purchase one ...