Monday, February 1, 2010

Have just tried ... Penderyn Peated

penderyn peated, madeira and sherrywoodA long wait for new Welsh whisky
Penderyn (pronounced Pen-derrin) is the only single malt whisky distillery currently operating in Wales. It is located in the village of Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales. It is owned by the Welsh Whisky Company, which was formed in 1998 and production began in September 2000, making 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, Frongoch in north Wales, closing in 1900. Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, is a big fan and serves Penderyn single malt whisky at his Highgrove House residence.

Innovative production methods
The production at Penderyn is unique and innovative. They buy pre-fermented wash from the local Brain's brewery and this is made to their specific recipe. They then distill this in to whisky. This is method is illegal in 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.

Peaty but with a difference
Their range is small and consists of a regular bottling which is finished in Madeira casks, a sherry cask bottling and this lightly peated version. Limited expressions are also available, with other releases being planned as more stock reaches optimum maturation. This peaty expression of Penderyn (the bottle in the green packaging on the left of the image above) is limited to approximately 5000 bottles a year and is bottled at 46% ABV. Interestingly, Penderyn do not use peated malt to create the peaty, smoky flavour as is traditionally practiced in Scotland and elsewhere. Instead, they produce their regular spirit and then mature it in casks that have previously held smoky whisky from the island of Islay. Therefore, the smokiness and other flavours from these ex-Islay casks are imparted to the spirit in the same way that the characteristics are imparted from regular casks such as ex-bourbon or ex-sherry. A bottle should cost £35-40 from specialist whisky retailers or Penderyn directly.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this Penderyn Peated is light and straw-like and is the lightest of all the Penderyn's that we have sampled to date. The nose is very light and slightly understated. There is vanilla up front and a distinct orchard fruit note (think of green pears and apples). These are joined by something grassy and herbal (imagine dried grasses or hay), a hint of citrus (think of lemon zest) and gentle, subtle, bonfire-like peat smoke. On the palate, this is basic but reasonable. A pleasant floral note (we couldn't quite place what it was to be honest) and the fresh green fruit from the nose kick things off, before the peatiness joins in and grows (this feels a little more earthy now). The citrus and vanilla are understated but present, as is the grassy/herbal note from the nose which suggested mint or eucalyptus to us. The finish is short, fresh and quite peppery (think of white pepper), with the peat appearing and then disappearing almost before you realise.

What's the verdict?
This is a tricky one. Penderyn Peated is one of the most uncomplicated, lightest, freshest smoky whiskies that we have tried to date and it has a number of pleasant features. The peatiness/smokiness is very subtle and understated - this would make it an ideal whisky to use to introduce people to the tastes of a smoky whisky without scaring them off for life. However, fans of big, peaty whiskies may struggle with it. We enjoyed Penderyn Peated but the subtle nature of the peat leaves it seemingly trying to decide if it's a true smoky whisky or not.

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