Archive for September, 2010


Today, I’m comparing three Penderyn [the only whisky distillery in Wales] expressions to see which I like best. Back at the beginning of the year, I posted a review of the standard Penderyn Madeira Finish expression. I thought it was a good, and very different tasting whisky. As far as enjoyment level, I thought it fit right in with the likes of Glenfidich 12 and Glenlivet 12. Pretty good for a 5 to 6 year old whisky. Although, the folks at Penderyn would likely point out that their unique distillation process ages the spirit faster than more traditional means. To learn more about the distillery, I recommend reading this great post from the folks at Whisky for Everyone.

I was fortunate enough to get 50ml samples of Penderyn’s Sherrywood and Peated expressions from the distillery. These two additional expressions are due to hit the shelves in the United States in October 2010, and I was curious to see which of the three would be my favorite. All three expressions should have a suggested retail price around $70. The Sherrywood is made from a combination of Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks. The Peated expression is not made from peated barley. Rather, they mature it in a combination of Bourbon casks and casks previously used to mature peated Scotch whisky from Islay.

Three Penderyn whiskies


Let’s revisit the Penderyn Madiera Finish, then compare the others. Keep in mind that this is a small distillery, with bottlings created in batches (dates marked on the bottle). There could potentially be a fair amount of variance between the batches I’ve tried and other batches produced.

Note: All three expressions are bottled at 46%, which probably helped earn them an extra point. The dates listed correspond with the particular batches that I tried.

Penderyn Madiera (Nov 09) – I still find the nose to be fruity and topical, and a little bit sharp when initially poured. I’m also getting a pretty strong pine needle smell that I’m surprised I didn’t place the first time around. After some time in the glass, the pine dies down a little, and more vanilla appears. I definitely prefer this whisky after it sits in the glass for 20 minutes or so. The palate is lively and youthful, but not harsh. Still fruity, a marmalade bitterness is introduced heading into the finish that builds and lingers. Different. Perfectly enjoyable. 81 points.

Penderyn Peated (Sep 09) – This one has a very clear family resemblance to the Madeira finish. The unique distillery presentation of tropical fruits is there, but with an added twist…there is a citrus component that leans towards grapefruit. There is fresh oak and a little smoke, but I’m not really getting pine with this one. It’s vibrant on the palate, but like the Madeira finish, feels a bit on the young side. The grapefruit persists into the finish, accompanied by smoke. Grapefruit wrapped in tin foil and cooked on an open flame? Another very different whisk(e)y experience. I like it about the same as the Madeira finish, I suppose. 81 points.

Penderyn Sherrywood (June 08) – On the nose, this is much more Scottish (not sure how the Penderyn folks would feel about that). It’s very relaxed relative to the Madeira and Peated expressions. Definite sherry influence, with dried fruits, but also increased oak and vanilla. Quite a bit of vanilla, in fact. On the palate, it continues to be smooth and laid back. On the back of the palate, and into the finish, some of the youthful spirit and tropical fruits appear. The finish itself is quite smooth and lacks some of the marmalade bitterness of the other expressions. Even with similarities in places, it would be easy to mistake the Sherrywood for a different distillery from the other two expressions. The profile of the Sherrywood bottling is more my style. It reminds me of Aberlour 12 year, though not quite as rich as that one. It’s my favorite Penderyn so far, and one I would comfortably offer to whisky newbies as a very “accessible” single malt. 83 points.

Comments – Penderyn is a young company, having just started producing whisky 10 years ago. So far, I find their expressions to be in the good, but not great range relative to other whiskies I’ve tried. However, their distillery profile is quite unique. Because of this, I’ll probably make a point of keeping a bottle of Penderyn in my whisky cabinet. I’m also hopeful that as the company and its whisky continues to mature, truly great bottlings will follow. Perhaps sooner rather than later. If you get a chance to try any of the Penderyn expressions, take advantage of the opportunity. It should be a unique experience, and it might really float your boat. In fact, Jim Murray of Whisky Bible fame already finds many of the Penderyn bottlings to be top notch.

Other Opinions of Penderyn Sherrywood and Peated

It looks like the Penderyn folks distributed a bunch of samples from the same Sherrywood batch. All of the Sherrywood review links below are for the June ’08 bottling, as is Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible review, where he gave it 91 points. JM also reviewed several Peated batches, with scores ranging from 78 to 92.5.

  • Whiskyfun – This whiskyfun article compares the Madeira with the Sherrywood and scores them 70 and 80 points respectively. However, the Madeira sample he reviewed was from 2004, likely making it a couple years younger than the one I have.
  • WhiskyNotes.be – Ruben reviews the Sherrywood release. While I thought the Sherrywood really closed the flavor profile gap between the other Penderyn expressions and Scotch whisky, Ruben still finds it quite different. He gives it 82 points.
  • Whisky Boys – The Whisky “Boys” do a Double Welsh Whisky Tasting of Peated and Sherrywood, much preferring the Sherrywood expression.

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Following on my last post, a comparison of Feis Ile Laphroaig samples from whiskysamples.eu, I’m now comparing two cask strength Lagavulin samples. First up is a 1994/2010 for Feis Ile, bottled at 52.7%. There were only 528 total bottles in this release, and it’s coming from European Oak ex sherry casks.

Next, we have a No Age Statement (NAS) release, bottled in 2010, that is only available at the distillery. The 6,000 bottle run comes from casks that had been tagged to be part of the Distiller’s Edition release, but according to Ruben at WhiskyNotes.be, they were too good for that general release vatting. He also states that they have been extra matured in sherry-seasoned American oak.

I compared both of these CS special releases with my bottles of standard Lagavulin 16 (2009) and Lagavulin DE (1991/2007).

Tasting Notes

Let’s start with the standard bottlings for reference…

Lagavulin 16 (2009) 43% – A nose you can get lost in. Fruit that starts as apples, then turns into dried red fruits, like there are some sherry casks involved. This is combined with sweet peat and iodine, and a subtle (for an Islay) smokiness that envelops the whole thing. Magical. The palate is thick and rich, and sweeter than the nose lets on. On the finish, peat and coal smoke galore, with a sweetness lingering on the tongue. My 2006 bottle had more caramel, to the point where it almost got in the way at the end. This 2009 bottling is more balanced. A true classic. 92 points.

Lagavulin DE (1991-2007) 43% – Another nose to sit with and take in for a long time. It has “in your face” sherry influences. The fruits are darker than the 16 year…dried fruits and over-ripe berries. Still medicinal and peaty. Neither of these standard Lagavulins have as much tar and coal smoke on the nose as younger Laphroaig and Ardbeg expressions, but it’s there in the background. Big, juicy, fruity peat on the palate. Then, on the finish, an explosion of earthy peat smoke takes over in the back of the nostrils, bouncing off of and mixing with the fruit on the tongue. Compared to the 16 year, this is equally captivating, but different. One of each, please! 92 points.

Lagavulin 1994/2010 for Feis Ile (52.7%) – The nose seems a little muted (compared to Laga 16 and DE). I’m getting sherry sweetness and peat, but also a fair amount of wood influence, with some cedar and vanilla (like a Laphroaig). The fruit flavors fall between Laga 16 and DE, but closer to the 16. There’s less iodine here and more coal smoke and tar. On the palate…wow! What a party on the tongue this expression is! Big impact, without being harsh. Great peppery spices. Heading into the finish, it starts to dry the tongue, but then suddenly the mouth waters. A different kind of Lagavulin magic! 92 points.

Lagavulin NAS 2010 Distillery Only (52.5%) – The nose is similar to the Feis Ile bottling in many ways. The fruits are darker, with a stronger red berry presence. It’s also a little sweeter. Similar on the palate and finish as well, but not quite as “magical.” It doesn’t have quite that same drying/watering combination on the tongue. Excellent, none-the-less, with great impact and a long finish. I would certainly buy a bottle given the chance. 91 points.

Comparison Notes

It seems like the Feis Ile expression is kind of a cask strength representation of the standard Laga 16, and the Distillery Only a stronger DE. When comparing all four together, the palate/finish stands out as being more impressive in the special edition bottlings.

Here’s the thing, though…when drinking Laga 16 and DE on their own, they don’t lack for presence on the palate, and the finish is long and brilliant. The standard bottlings also offer an improved experience on the nose (for me, anyway). The stronger alcohol in the cask strength offerings prevents me from really digging my nose in and getting lost in the aromas.

Perhaps there’s a magic combination of whisky and water that preserves the magic on the palate and brings out the aromas of the nose with these special releases. I didn’t have a large enough sample to experiment in this way, though. Therefore, I consider all of these whiskies to be on fairly equal footing. That being said, if you’re more about the palate/finish than the nose, I think the Feis Ile release shoots ahead of the others.

Other Opinions

As with the Laphroaig Feis Ile releases, you can find great notes at both whiskyfun.com and WhiskyNotes.be:

My friend Gal, over at whiskyisrael.co.il, also got a sample of the Distillery Only bottling. He really liked it, but perhaps enjoys the standard DE a little more. Hey…same conclusion! 🙂


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Updated 9/7/2010 with the Fall schedule. See below…

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza (SMSWE?) is co-sponsored by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) and Robb Report. If you plan to attend, make sure you get the discounted ticket rate. There are a bunch of whisky bloggers and web sites posting details of the event, and offering discount codes to get the SMWSA member rate of $120, rather than the full non-member price of $135.

The SMWSA provided me with a discount code to share as well: SH2010. Just go to the Tickets page on the event web site and put SH2010 in the promo code field.


The Whisky Extravaganza will be coming to 13 major cities in the United States (unfortunately, Phoenix, AZ isn’t one of them): Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Denver, New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Here is the official invite information provided to me by a SMWSA representative:

Ladies and Gentlemen are cordially invited to enjoy a connoisseur’s evening featuring over 100 rare & exceptional single malt and Scotch whiskies. The evening includes a delicious dinner buffet as well as a selection of premium imported cigars for our guests’ later enjoyment. The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza brings the discerning enthusiast the opportunity to sample the participating whiskies in a sophisticated and elegant environment with genuine camaraderie and knowledgeable representatives from each participating distillery.

From the event web site, here’s the official “what’s included” (for the $120/$135 entry fee) list:

  • Taste over 100 single malt & Scotch whiskies
  • Savor a sumptuous buffet dinner
  • Premium imported cigars for your later enjoyment
  • Robb Report magazines for attendees
  • A souvenir tasting glass
  • Raffle prizes

My own additional note: If you plan to taste the 100+ whiskies on hand, make sure you get a ride. In fact, think about being proactive and taking an Bambulance ambulance to the event:

Tour Schedule:

The full tour schedule can be found here: http://www.singlemaltextravaganza.com/schedule.html

UPDATE: The fall schedule is now available. The LA event is looking tempting for this AZ resident:

OCTOBER 7, 2010
The Union League Club of Chicago
65 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604
Jackets Required (No denim or athletic wear)
OCTOBER 21, 2010
The Taj Boston
15 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116
OCTOBER 27, 2010
JW Marriott Hotel
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
OCTOBER 29, 2010
The Union League Club of Philadelphia
140 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Jackets Required (No denim or athletic wear)
NOVEMBER 16, 2010
Intercontinental San Francisco
888 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
LOS ANGELES THURSDAY NOVEMBER 18, 2010 Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
1700 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
DECEMBER 2, 2010
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
1 Seminole Way
Hollywood, FL 33314

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