Penderyn Celt Single Malt Welsh Whisky – Review

*Thanks to Sam Filmus and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

The Brecon Beacons, or as they say in Welsh, Bannau Brycheiniog, are a range of mountains in South Wales. These mountains are made up of Old Red Sandstone which, despite its alarmingly dull name, is a type of rock strata that dates back to the Devonian Age and is actually pretty exciting from a paleontological standpoint. The Devonian Age, which occurred between around 420 million and 359 million years ago, takes its name from the abundance of Old Red Sandstone found in Devon County in the UK. As if I haven’t strayed far enough from Brecon Beacons, it’s also incredibly important to note that the Devonian Age is also occasionally known as “The Age of Fishes” due to the huge diversity of fish that evolved during that period. I think we can all agree that few things are more thrilling in life than imagining a wide variety of Placoderms roaming the prehistoric seas like bone-plated pirates in search of all manner of primeval booty.

The Brecon Beacons range and surrounding area were made into a National Park in 1957. The Brecon Beacons National Park, or as they say in Welsh, Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog, encompasses 519 square miles, which is a little less than half the size of Rhode Island for those needing a Rhode Island comparison. The park sounds lovely and idyllic, made up of moorlands, forests, low mountains, and dotted with rivers, small lakes, and waterfalls. Located on the southern edge of the park is the small village of Penderyn. And located in the small village of Penderyn is, you guessed it, the Penderyn Distillery.

The Penderyn Celt Single Malt Welsh Whisky is the third expression in Penderyn’s “Dragon” range. After being aged in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for approximately six years, the Celt is then finished for six to twelve months is smaller quarter casks which previously held peated whisky. As the name strongly implies, a quarter cask is roughly a quarter the size of an American Standard barrel with a capacity of around 13 gallons. Of all the Penderyn expressions, I think this one raised the highest eyebrow. I was very interested to see how the distillery would integrate their lighter, cleaner house style and the concentrated influence of peat from the smaller finishing casks.

The Nose:  Light, in the Penderyn style, but with a beguiling, quiet complexity. Warm apple sauce, underripe pears, and pithy orange. Well-toasted bread…and well-toasted bread with honey. There’s a whiff of wood smoke, and a faint hint of saline, but that peated cask influence is relatively subtle. Very quiet oak notes – sanded boards, vanilla bean, a little cinnamon stick, and a bit of clove.

The Palate:  The peated casks make themselves known more boldly and quickly here. Amber orange blossom honey, tart apples, and orange marmalade lead to more pronounced peat and seaside smoke notes. The peat is lightly vegetal and smoke is a smoldering bonfire down the beach. The oak is nicely grippy with smoky vanilla bean, clove, and fine ground pepper.

The Finish: Longish and dry-ish, dominated by the gentle peat smoke and oak with hints of that citrus sweetness fading into a peppery finale.

Thoughts:  This is a very good, very intereesting whisky. As I  said, I was curious to see how Penderyn would blend their bright, lighter house style with the darker, usually overpowering peat influence. While I think it was a bit of jump for that influence from the nose to the palate, overall, I think they managed it pretty well. On the nose is probably where the best balance of that house style and finishing cask is achieved. But, despite the heavier, slightly dominant peat and smoke of the palate, this still feels like a lighter whisky, certainly not a peated single malt Scotch. The Celt manages to keep its house style intact and show off how nicely it fares with a peated influence, making for a refreshing, interesting twist on the “smoky Scotch” style. Recommended.

Penderyn Celt Single Malt Welsh Whisky, Wales, +/-2019

43% ABV

Score:  86



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