When Penderyn distillery was established in the year 2000, not only was it the first distillery in Wales for nearly a century, it was also the only whisky distillery in mainland Britain – with the obvious exception of Scotland of course. It is quite remarkable that since then, more than thirty distilleries have started up in England, where as Wales has only recently reached six (Penderyn, Dà Mhìle, Aber Falls, Anglesey Môn, Coles, In The Welsh Wind). Although it should be said that Penderyn have now expanded to have three distilleries of their own, which would take the total number to eight. As well as their flagship distillery in the Brecon Beacons, they now have a new north Wales distillery in Llandudno, which is producing peated single malt, and was opened in 2021. The third distillery will be in the south of the country in Swansea, and is due to open in 2022. I visited the north Wales distillery before they had started production last year, and look forward to trying that peated spirit when it’s ready.
Penderyn is a whisky which divides opinion, and although it clearly has many fans in order to treble its number of distilleries, it doesn’t get the same amount of love as many of the new distilleries across the border in England have enjoyed amongst the whisky enthusiast circles I am part of. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact they started before the whisky boom we are seeing today, and at a time when social media wasn’t around to give new distilleries a certain level of hype and ceremony we see with every new distillery that releases a single malt now. Another theory is this is down to their unique method of distillation using their hybrid copper pot/column Faraday still, which produces a very clean spirit at 92% ABV. This isn’t accidental, a clean style of spirit is what the distillery are looking to produce, but perhaps that also means it lacks the characteristics and complex flavours many of us look for in our whiskies. Click here to visit their website for a more thorough explanation of their Faraday stills than I can give.
The whisky tends to be bottled at quite a young age, with maturation in charred, ex-bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace and Evan Williams for around five or six years, before being finished in a variety of different casks before bottling. Madeira is the finish that Penderyn is best known for and is the house style, but there are other expressions in the core range finished in a variety of casks, such as Port, Oloroso Sherry and quarter casks from Laphroaig for their peated whiskies.
In 2013-14, Penderyn expanded it’s distillery to include a second Faraday still, but also two more traditional copper pot lantern stills, which produce a spirit at 67% ABV, and creates a slightly heavier, oilier style of Penderyn single malt.
That brings us nicely onto the whisky I am reviewing today, which is the first core range product from Penderyn where the majority of the spirit has been produced using those lantern stills. I don’t know what the percentages are in this majority (it might only be 51%), but as soon as I heard about this bottle I wanted to try it. I am hoping for a thicker textured, and perhaps more characterful style that I and many others enjoy in their single malt. It is the eighth edition of their Icons Of Wales series and unusually is described as having an ex-bourbon cask finish, which I assume means it was transferred into more active ex-bourbon casks than it was initially maturing in. It is bottled at 46% ABV and is un-chill filtered. There is no mention of colour, but my guess would be this is natural and entirely cask derived.
Penderyn Hiraeth – Review
Nose : Sweet sparkling pear cider is the dominant aroma here, and is also joined by lemon citrus, honey and vanilla milkshake. There is a light acetone note, along with a pebble beach earthy salinity and grassy hay.
Palate : There is some texture here – a bit more than I am accustomed too with Penderyn – and there is a nice oiliness which coats the lips. No sign of those pears from the nose, this is more on sweet lemon and sour green apple. It starts to go slightly bitter from there in the form of oaky tannins, and we get a warming gingery spice. Vanilla cream then starts to build and eventually takes over from the bitter, tannic sensations. The finish isn’t big, but it does stick around for some time and is very creamy – like drinking double cream straight from the pot. There is a little stony earthiness too.
Conclusions : You’ll see a lot from me when it comes to Welsh whisky. Being Welsh I am keen to champion and try as much of the country’s whisky as I can, as it is often missed out completely by reviewers. There may even be another Welsh review just around the corner 😉
This is much more in-keeping with the style of whisky I enjoy. It has texture, body and nice fruity, creamy aromas and flavours. It won’t be a dram you could describe as having a great deal of complexity, and the price is a bit sticky too at £55 for a NAS at 46%.
I’ve enjoyed a few Penderyn’s in my whisky journey, but I am yet to be wowed. Having said that, I genuinely think this is the best Penderyn I have tasted, and is much more to my liking. Hopefully we will see more expressions from their pot stills, and i’d love to experience something that is 100% from them; particularly with a bit more age to it. I would encourage anybody who has previously shied away from the distillery to give it a chance, and i’d recommend you try this if you get the opportunity. I may not be buying a second bottle, but I am not disappointed I bought this one.
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus. Happy St David’s Day!
Score : 6/10 (Good)
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
ABV : 46%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Not mentioned
Maturation : Ex-Bourbon cask finish
Region : Wales
Colour : Light Gold