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.
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.