Penderyn (pronounced Pen-derrin) is the only single malt whisky distillery in Wales. 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 translates as 'head of the kite' from the Welsh language (that's kite as in the type of bird and the Brecons is home to one of the largest populations of them 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.
Unique 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 distil 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.
A limited edition
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 July 2010 and comes from a cask (Port cask number 26, hence the PT26) that was specially selected by Dr. Jim Swan, Penderyn's Master Distiller. It was limited to just 216 bottles at £275 each and bottlied at the natural cask strength of 60.6% ABV. Its predecessor, which was released in 2009, won the accolade of European Single Cask Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2010. We thank Luke O'Mahony at Penderyn for the chance to sample this whisky.
Our tasting notes
The colour of PT26 is dark amber with a dark reddish hue (dark is the key word here!). The nose is rich, sumptuous and has plenty of sugary sweetness (think of caramel or treacle), dried fruits (imagine raisins, candied orange peel, dates and prunes) and a hint of dark, bitter chocolate and coffee. On the palate, the whisky starts sweetly with the caramel and treacle notes prominent. These are backed up by other sweet elements - dried fruits (especially the dates and prunes), vanilla, cereal grains and a dollop of orange marmalade. It then becomes woody and slightly bitter very quickly, with plenty of wood spice (think of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove), dark chocolate, espresso coffee and a hint of menthol coming through. There is also a distinct hit of burnt sugar or black treacle. The finish long, dry, tannic and very spicy with burnt sugar, high cocoa chocolate, dried fruits and cinnamon standing out. Port Wood is very rich but well balanced without water, especially considering the high strength. We decided to try it with a few drops of water. This gave more caramel and buttery toffee (think of butterscotch) on the nose and palate, although it flattens the enjoyable spiciness and dryness.
What's the verdict?
This is one rich and full-on whisky, that may be too rich and full-on for some. The high alcoholic strength (60.6% ABV) combined with the Port cask has given this whisky a wonderful intensity with exaggerated aromas and flavours. Penderyn whiskies seem to be coming of age as more of their stock reaches longer maturation and it is hard to believe that they have only been making whisky for 10 years. Only you can decide if the high price tag is worth it but this lovely whisky should be tried if you get the chance, as it is one of the better Port cask whiskies that we have tried to date.