On Saint David’s day (the 1st of March for those who don’t know all the saints by heart, myself included), I participated to a Penderyn Tweet Tasting organized by the unmissable Steve Rush. Saint David was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids) during the 6th century. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales. Fast forward to the end of the 20th century. A group of friends while having a dram, decided to start a distillery, and in 1998, The Welsh Whisky Company was born. Two years later, it started distilling, and this was the first time a Welsh distillery did this in more than a hundred years. Finally, in 2004 on Saint David’s day, Penderyn Whisky was launched in the presence of HRH Prince Charles. Penderyn distillery is located in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales.
A unique process of distillation
Penderyn uses Faraday stills, conceived by Dr David Faraday, a descendent of the great Victorian inventor Michael Faraday. While Scottish and Irish distilleries use two to three stills to distil their spirit. However, Penderyn uses only a single still for its distillation. First, they fill it with their wash in the morning. Then, when vapour heats the liquid, it boils and the vapour rises in a column made of copper sited above the still. The column is made of several perforated plates, allowing the vapour to condense on the first plate and go back to the still. Then when the vapour rises to the second plate, and the process repeats, with the vapour condensing and falling back to the still. It happens until the vapour reaches the seventh plate, and there the liquid is extracted to go to the spirit safe, up to 92% abv, and the distiller can make the cut. However, in 2014 Penderyn also commissioned a pair of Scottish-style “Lantern” stills (producing spirit at around 67%) to allow them to experiment with new whiskies.
The Tweet Tasting
We received a pack of three miniatures from Penderyn Distillery with the Madeira Finish, the Sherrywood and the Peated. While I received these for free, full editorial control has been retained in the tasting process.
Penderyn Madeira Finish
This Penderyn Madeira Finish has been matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in… you got it, ex-Madeira wine casks. Bottled at 46%, it is uncoloured and un-chill filtered. At the time of writing, you can find it for £37.90 on Master of Malt, £41.82 on Penderyn online shop (including UK delivery) or in France, at 57€ at La Maison Du Whisky for a full bottle, or 47€ for a pack with a 35cl bottle and two Penderyn Glencairn glasses.
Chardonnay with a pink hue.
The nose starts with vanilla and is spirity, with a touch of nail varnish remover. It is then complemented with overripe grapes, green apples, before going to bubblegum sweetness and definitely hints of Madeira wine.
The arrival is sweet and slightly spicy, with a good oily mouthfeel. Then a hit of pepper and ginger (with an emphasis on ginger) happens. Some bitterness follows, black coffee, hints of perfume (why do I know the taste?), and pomelo. Then after a moment some oak, like when you lick a stave (yes, I have “special” ways of passing time), and eventually chilli pepper and Tabasco sauce.
Definitively stave oak, chilli pepper and green apples. Quite long on the oak and chilli.
Many more seasoned whisky bloggers are usually not that fond of Madeira finishes, but I’m quite a newbie one, it’s my blog (and Ainu’s of course) and every palate is different! I found it tasty and with a good nose, sweet and spicy on both dimensions. Easy to sip, and to deliver it at 46% was the right choice.
This Penderyn Sherrywood has been matured in ex-bourbon casks and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Bottled at 46%, it is uncoloured and un-chill filtered. At the time of writing, you can find it for £43.96 on Master of Malt, £45.28 on Penderyn online shop (including UK delivery) or in France, at 66€ at La Maison Du Whisky.
The nose is fruity and spirity at first, with apples, pear and nail varnish remover again, but this is less present than on the Madeira finish. Pine needles and a mix of dark and milk chocolate. Some orange juice with pulp, vanilla, hints of banana (just hints, phew) and maybe peardrops.
Less sweet than the Madeira finish on the arrival, it has a full-bodied silky mouthfeel. The palate is quite pepperish as well. Grapefruit and pomelo give a nice citrus-y bitterness. The sherry casks bring on some oakiness, with dark chocolate, oranges, and some dried red fruits, sultanas, and a sip of coffee.
Very woody and sour, medium in length. Very slightly drying after a minute.
While I usually like citrusy sourness in my whisky, I wasn’t comfortable with the sourness here, it didn’t integrate as well as I think it could with the rest. Maybe I have a sweeter tooth than I thought, but I’m less convinced with this one than with the Madeira Finish.
This Penderyn Peated has been initially matured in a Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel for between 5 and 8 years, before being finished in an ex-Laphroaig cask for several months. Bottled at 46%, it is uncoloured and un-chill filtered. At the time of writing, you can find it for £42.83 on Master of Malt, £47.77 on Penderyn online shop (including UK delivery) or in France, at 66€ at La Maison Du Whisky.
Very clear, like a diluted Vin gris.
The nose starts immediately with citrus and peat, and makes me kind of think of a Lagavulin 8yo with its stable notes of cow dung. There are some mineral notes too, like chalk and limestone. After a quick moment, you can get strong notes of pear brandy too.
The palate is very sweet, with a very light peat and smoke at first. It’s also citrusy. With time, peat gets more and more present but always in a subtle way, never overpowering. Some citrusy notes again with grapefruit, as well as caramel, black coffee and dark chocolate. It’s more pepperish on the second sip. Finally, some fruits with pear and apples, and a little chilli.
Warm on the gums, slightly drying too. Citrus and smoke, some oak bitterness too. I thought the finish was short at first then realized there was a longing light bitterness staying, and the drying effect on the gums getting stronger over time.
The peat is light on this whisky, but you can explain it by the fact it was just a finish in an ex-Laphroaig cask and not a peated malt. The peat side is integrated well enough, but I would have been interested by a real peated whisky. Really lovely nose, but the palate is not on par with it.
As usual, Tweet Tastings are a really fun and pleasant way to discover several whiskies from a single distillery (though some of the Tweet Tastings let you taste whiskies from several distilleries bottled by a single independent bottler), and I had only tasted the Penderyn Madeira Finish before. Though I’m usually more partial to peated whiskies, the Madeira Finish hit the spot for me that evening, in front of the Peated and finally the Sherrywood. Those whiskies are in the end really drinkable and well priced, at least in UK.