*Thanks to Sam Filmus and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
Back around the year 2002, to help get their new distillery off the ground, Penderyn enlisted the help of Dr. Jim Swan. Without Dr. Swan’s expertise, it’s unlikely that the Welsh distillery would have experienced the success that it has had. The same could be said for Islay’s Kilchoman, and Taiwan’s King Car/Kavalan, and India’s Amrut, and Ireland’s Dublin Distillery Co., and Israel’s Milk & Honey Distillery, and Canada’s Victoria Caledonian Distillery, and England’s Cotswold’s Distillery and St. George Distillery, and Scotland’s Lindores Abbey Distillery, Clydeside Distillery, and Annandale Distillery. And there’s more beyond that list. Dr. Swan was one of the most experienced and sought-after consultants in the industry, and his death in the Spring of 2017 left a rather big hole in the world of whisky.
Dr. Swan’s career spanned five decades. In the ’70s and ’80s, he worked with industry research groups and helped develop a flavor vocabulary and an early incarnation of the flavor wheel with Sheila Burtles. To complete his research on the distillation of whisky, he earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biological Sciences from Heriot-Watt University. In the ’90s, Swan shifted his focus from distillation to maturation and shared his expertise with, among others, the master distillers of the Bourbon industry at the time. His deep and broad experience with the entire whisky-making process made him an obvious choice as the go-to consultant for the wave of new distilleries that swelled in the early 2000s.
If you look at that list of his most well-known distillery involvements, it doesn’t take long to recognize a uniting trait. Kilchoman, Penderyn, Amrut, Kavalan, Milk & Honey, St. George…they’ve all reached a level of success very quickly by bringing high-quality young whiskies to the market. Swan recognized the importance of creating a brand presence as fast as possible for these new companies, but also knew that longevity was only possible with a quality product. He was able to refine the production processes and incorporate the unique characteristics of these distilleries to create new whiskies that almost immediately garnered positive attention but more importantly established a reputation and laid the groundwork for future success.
Dr. Swan was involved with Penderyn from 2002 until his death. Using the unique Faraday still, he created their distinctive spirit and acted as the brands Master Blender. It seemed fitting to mention him in a review of a whisky called “Legend”. The Penderyn Legend Single Malt Welsh Whisky is part of Penderyn’s Dragon line which features whiskies similar to their Gold line but lighter in price, style, and ABV. The Legend is a Madeira-finished malt and is approximately six years old, matured first in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels then six to twelve months in the finishing casks. As is the case with All Penderyns, the Legend is not chill-filtered and uses no artificial coloring.
The Nose: Crisp, fresh, and fruity…but also spirity. There’s plump golden raisins, Honeycrisp apples, and hints of red berries along with thinnish honey and powdered sugar. Candied almonds, pithy orange, and a bit of nail polish remover. The oak is mild but sharp-edged and fresh-shellacked with powdered ginger and vanilla bean.
The Palate: While this remains a lighter whisky, there’s more happening on the palate. More honey, more golden raisins, warm applesauce, and subtler dried fruits. Sugared nuts, baker’s chocolate, and frosted oat flakes. The oak is stronger here, too. Edgy boards, nicely tannic with vanilla bean, candied ginger, and allspice berries.
The Finish: Thinnish and shortish. A bit of fruit and sugared grain fade to some grippy oak, allspice, and vanilla bean.
Thoughts: Not my favorite Penderyn. I thought the palate certainly saved this one after the nose came across as too solvent-y and light. Some of the subtle shading provided by the finishing casks clearly place it next to the Madeira Finish, but it lacks the depth and complexity of that one. While the lighter, distillate-forward house-style is evident here, the Legend seems a bit immature and doesn’t quite live up to its name.
Penderyn Legend Single Malt Welsh Whisky, Wales, +/-2019
- Gillespie, Mark. “Dr. Jim Swan: 1941-2017.” WhiskyCast, 15 Feb. 2017, https://whiskycast.com/dr-jim-swan-1941-2017/.
- McCormick, Jonny. “Remembering Dr. Jim Swan.” Whisky Advocate, 21 Feb. 2017, http://whiskyadvocate.com/remembering-dr-jim-swan/.
- “The Dragon Collection, Legend, Myth & Celt, Bottled at 41% Abv.” Penderyn, http://penderyn.wales/dragon/.
- “The Team, a Committed and Dedicated Team of Whisky Enthusiasts.” Penderyn, http://penderyn.wales/the-team/.
- “Whisky Pioneers: Dr. Jim Swan’s Incredible Whisky Legacy.” Whisky Foundation, 23 May 2017, https://www.whiskyfoundation.com/2017/05/23/whisky-pioneers-jim-swan/.