Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Well Well Welsh

Penderyn Peated
46% ABV
No Age Statement

In the last two years, I've had whisky from Scotland, Ireland, and England, as well as America, Canada, and even Japan.  But what about that "other" country in Great Britain?  What about Wales?  Well now I can check that one off the list as well.

Wales is a relatively small country, with only 3 million inhabitants (compared to Scotland's 5.2 million) and 8,000 square miles in size (30,000 for Scotland).  Although Wales shares a close political and social history with the rest of Great Britain, it has retained a distinct cultural identity. Wales is officially bilingual, the Welsh and English languages having equal status. The Welsh language is an important element of Welsh culture, and its use is supported by national policy. Over 580,000 Welsh speakers live in Wales, more than 20% of the population.

Although the country shared similar climate and resource conditions with Scotland, whisky production lapsed in the 19th century with the serious rise of the Temperance Movement.  The last of the Welsh Whisky Distilleries closed in 1910.  It was until the year 2000 that the foundation of the Welsh Whisky Company (now known as Penderyn) was announced. A distillery was built at Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Penderyn is a deliberately small distillery - it was designed with a single copper pot still and production is limited to a single cask each day (a lot of distilleries like to advertise the "we produce less in a year than the big guys produce in a day" angle, and Penderyn is one of them).  All of their whiskies are matured in two separate casks.  In the case of the peated whisky that I tried, it's a bourbon cask (Buffalo Trace) to start with and a reused scotch cask for finishing. 

Reused scotch casks usually have most of the coloring pulled from them already, so the peated whisky is bottled very pale.  I read a review which described the color as "chardonnay".  I don't know my wines very well, but OK, we'll go with chardonnay.

Now, usually when I see a "peated" variety of a whisky, I'm expecting the peat layered onto the spirit with a trowel like its Islay cousins.  Not so in this case - the smokiness of the nose is faint, much more welcoming.  It's more fruity and floral than peat monster (which is actually the name of an old Compass Box blend I would highly recommend if you can find it anywhere, but I digress).

There is no age statement on the Penderyn, but with the distillery opening in 2000, we can assume this is a pretty young whisky, and the taste and finish support that.  The peat is more prevalent here with some grassiness and pepper as well.  I found the finish to be pretty short, but with a pretty sharp spirity burn.

Overall, this whisky provides an excellent introduction to Welsh whisky.  I think you can tell you're drinking something different than scotch, and that's OK.  One of things I enjoy most of all is exploring these types of expressions and learning more about the process in different places.  I hope

(special thanks to Derek D. for introducing me to this fine expression)

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