Nothing says “Whisky Boom” like new distilleries cropping up in countries that have no history of whisky production. It doesn’t take long for a country with celtic ties to notice the wild explosion in international whisky fervor, and stick some new make into a few barrels. The Welsh Whisky Company built its Penderyn Distillery in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales in 2000, and began distilling whisky from a mash brewed by nearby Brains Brewery. Penderyn uses an usual pot still designed by Dr. David Faraday, which uses a 660 gallon copper pot still fed into a pair of rectifying columns. This hybrid approach produces new make in a single pass, but maintains the elegance and flavor associated with the use of copper pot stills. The spirit is aged in Buffalo Trace first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, followed by a six month dip in ex-Madeira casks. The company also sells a sherry wood expression, and a peated whisky (made by filling spirit into peated refill scotch barrels). Penderyn whisky is bottled without an age statement, and without chill-filtration.
Nose: The first word that comes to mind is “clean”. Penderyn smells clean, like freshly-folded laundry, or sparklingly clear spring water. The aroma laser-focuses on crushed nuts, lemon peel, and white chocolate fudge, with a tart high note of fresh plum or green grapes.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel. Moderate tongue burn. Very nutty, with layers of pistachio and hazelnut over a bed of crisp roasted malt. The madeira only comes through on the end, with notes of golden raisin and a bare touch of balsamic.
Finish: Medium-long. Drying, with a bit of grape-skin tannin and even more nuttiness. Ends pleasantly, with no bitterness.
With Water: A few drops of water release a bumper crop of grape skins and white vermouth, making the nose somewhat drier. The palate is still creamy, and is undiminished by the water, which also pulls out a little more pure barley flavor. Try this both with and without water.
Overall: An excellent example of how high-quality a whisky can be made outside of the traditional whiskymaking countries. Penderyn is focused, superbly balanced, eminently flavorsome, and crystal clean. All at the correct strength – 46%. I could have been tricked into thinking this was a single-grain whisky, with all of that creaminess and clarity. A pleasure.
I marked this ‘Must Try’ because even though it doesn’t offer anything that’s unique in the whisky world, I believe that whisky drinkers should expand their horizons and taste the products – when of high quality – of every producer worldwide. With Penderyn, you can cross Wales off of your list!