Hailing from the old village from which it takes its name, nestled in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National Park, when it was launched in 2004 Penderyn became the first whisky commercially distilled in Wales since the 19th Century. It remains the only whisky currently produced in the Wales. Produced by the Penderyn Distillery, previously known as the Welsh Whisky Company, this is a premium single malt whisky with a 46% alcohol content. The Madeira finish being the main expression out of several that now make up the Penderyn rage.
“The Madeira finish single malt Welsh whisky defines our ‘house style of whiskies’. Distilled in our unique copper pot still, matured in bourbon barrels, finished in rich Madeira wine casks and bottled at premium strength, this single malt whisky is smooth, light in character and softly golden in colour.”
The Welsh, like their Celtic neighbours in Ireland and Scotland, long had a predilection for distilling whisky on a small scales. There is a legend, most likely apocryphal, of a Great Welsh Warrior known as Reaullt Hir allegedly distilling spirits from mead brewed by the monks of Bardsey Island off the North Wales coast in the 4th Century. Little known now Wales once had its own history of commercial whisky distillation beginning with the Williams family of Dale in Pembrokeshire in the early 18th Century. Later in that same century whisky also was being distilled by the Daniels family of Cardigan. While now forgotten in their homeland the decedents of these families are better remembered for taking their distilling expertise across the Atlantic to found the Tennessee whisky industry.
Towards the end of the 19th Century whisky was for a short time distilled at Fron-goch near Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) in North Wales. This distillery, founded in 1887, appears not to have been a success and eventually closed for good in 1910, just in time for the distillery to be used as a prison camp for German and Irish prisoners during the First World War. The surviving buildings were demolished after the war. The increasingly influential temperance movement in Wales during the 19th Century was at the same time making the country an unwelcome place for the distillation of whisky.
As for the whisky itself I am far from from qualified to discern or discribe the aromas and flavours of a whisky like this so I shall leave it to the erudite words of the Penderyn distillery.
“At a generous 46% ABV, it has a classic freshness with aromas of cream toffee, rich fruit and raisins. The palate is crisp and finely rounded, with the sweetness to balance an appetising dryness. Notes of tropical fruit, raisins and vanilla persist in the finish.”
I cannot swear that I can detect any cream toffee or tropical fruit in this whisky but I can say that I have been rather enjoying it mixed with a little water on an evening. I’ll will be interested to see how the distillery develops in the future and I look forward to trying the other varieties of whisky now found in their range.