*Thanks to Sam Filmus and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
Penderyn’s origin story, according to Penderyn, begins sometime in the mid-’90s, in a Welsh pub with a group of friends, possibly slightly overserved, getting rather excited about creating a Welsh whisky. These were apparently men of action, not just men of slightly overserved talk because by 1998 a company had been formed, a site had been chosen, and a unique still had been found to make the spirit. Distilling began around the year 2000, and in 2004, with the name of Penderyn in honor of the small village the distillery is located in, the first whisky was bottled.
From the beginning, Penderyn has endeavored to make a unique spirit, a Welsh whisky, not just a Scotch or Irish style whisky made in Wales. The distilling history of Wales did not give them much to go on, so they’ve had to opportunity to create something new. They’ve done so by using a specially designed still which creates a very different spirit than Scotch or Irish, and by bringing in one of the more revered whisky-making gurus in the industry, Dr. Jim Swan. Swan’s involvement from the beginning of production to his untimely passing gave Penderyn a solid, focused foundation that’s helped the brand’s sales grow steadily over the years. I’ll take a more detailed look at Penderyn’s stills, and at Dr. Swan’s contributions to the world of whisky in upcoming posts.
Today, Penderyn is led by an all-women distilling team. After being guided and handed the reigns by Dr. Swan, distillery manager Laura Davies, master blender Aista Jukneviciute, and distiller Bethan Morgans now lead the distillery which has seen some major changes in the last few years. Demand grew and necessitated the addition in 2013 of a second still in the style of the first. They also added two traditional pot stills in 2014 which presumably gives them an even broader range of spirit to work with. Also in 2014, the distillery took over all mashing. Prior to that, Penderyn had its mash provided by a nearby brewery. The latest, and perhaps the biggest news is that of a second…and apparently, a third distillery. Due to Penderyn being located in Brecon Beacons National Park, expansion of any kind is not feasible. Early in 2019, the company announced plans for a Swansea location which will feature a distillery and an expanded visitor center containing museums, a tasting room, gift shop, and conference facilities. The hope is that this expansion will be completed by 2022. At the end of September this year, it was announced that Penderyn has been given the go-ahead and financial support from the Welsh government to build a new distillery and visitor center in North Wales, in the coastal town of Llandudno. The target date for that location to open is 2021.
Penderyn produces a fairly wide range of single malts and white spirits. Their “Gold” line seems to be the core and is made up of single malts that have been primarily aged in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon casks and then finished in another type of cask for a short time. This range includes the Madeira, the Sherrywood, the Peated, the Portwood, and the new Rich Oak. Penderyn’s “Dragon” range features Legend, a Madeira-finish, Myth, a wine-cask-finish, and Celt, a peated cask finish. The Dragon range features similar finishes, but with a lighter style, lower ABV and lower price than the Gold range. There’s also the far more limited single cask releases and the Icons of Wales series, which celebrates “a person, milestone or event from Welsh history with international significance.” The distillery also has a quintet of gins, a vodka, and a cream liqueur.
As with all current Gold and Dragon expressions, the Penderyn Sherrywood Single Malt Welsh Whisky does not carry an age statement. The approximate age is around 6 years, with anywhere from 6-12 months of finishing in the sherry casks. Penderyn is less concerned about having a specific age range, choosing instead to focus on maintaining consistent flavor profiles from one bottling to the next. The Penderyn Sherrywood, as with all Penderyn expressions is a non-chill filtered whisky and contains no added coloring.
The Nose: Youthful and light, but with subtle, beguiling complexity. There’s caramel-y orange blossom honey, the concentrated sweetness of dried apples and dried apricots, and a faint hint of baseball card bubblegum. Along with that dried fruit sweetness, there’s Jordan almonds and melted bittersweet chocolate. There’s also shellacked oak with spice notes of candied ginger, earthy cinnamon, dried citrus peel, and vanilla extract.
The Palate: A nice oily mouthfeel. An initially thin sweetness builds with more caramel and brown sugars, malt syrup, and red fruits. More nuttiness, toasted walnuts, and more candied almonds, along with cocoa nibs and vanilla bean. Much more tannic oak here, but not as much youthful sharpness as I was expecting. Vibrant spice notes of ginger, nutmeg, fine ground pepper, and a little clove.
The Finish: A very nice, lingering, slightly zippy mix of citrus, spice, and oak fades first with roasted nuts and baker’s chocolate hanging around the longest.
Thoughts: A very bright, lively whisky. The house style is evident with the crisp fruit and grain, and the sherry influence is nicely incorporated. While there are some youthful edges to this, the deft balance of the sherry and bourbon casks compliments the youth rather than tries to cover it up. A very nice whisky which plainly shows off the unique distillery character and how that character plays with sherry. Recommended.
Penderyn Sherrywood Welsh Single Malt Whisky, +/-2018
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- Tregenna, Jon. “Meet Penderyn’s All Women Distilling Team.” Penderyn, 23 July 2018, http://penderyn.wales/meet-penderyns-women-distilling-team/.
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