England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales goes the old rhyme, and for those who have been reading closely that has been the course my reviews have been heading on since last Wednesday. So today, we are celebrating those Welsh whiskies and all that they are. For the longest time, although they love the drink, Wales had no active whisky distilleries since the liquidation of the Welsh Whisky Distillery Company at Frongoch in 1910, and it had been closed for more than a decade prior to this. It wasn’t until 2000 when Penderyn (previously the Welsh Whisky Company) was announced. The first bottles went on sale in 2004, over a century since the last Welsh whisky graced the market, and Penderyn have enjoyed turning heads at the thought of a Welsh whisky ever since. For over a decade, they were alone making whisky in Wales, until 2016 when the Da Mhile distillery bottled its first organic single grain whisky, and Aber Falls distillery in the north expect to bottle their whisky in 2020. This World Whisky Wednesday however we are focusing on Penderyn, and the wonderful whiskies they produce.
The first in a century. Now that has got to a lot of pressure. To compensate, Penderyn have created a wide range of whiskies, with Madeira, Peated, Port and Sherried all available, as well as bottling under the “Dragon” range, a homage to the Red Dragon of the Welsh flag. Today’s whisky is the Penderyn Aur Cymru. Meaning Welsh Gold, the Aur Cymru was launched 1st of March 2004, St Davids Day, and is the flagship whisky of the Welsh range. Finished in ex-Madeira casks, non chilled filtered and bottled at 46%, the whisky glints that Welsh gold and really stands out in the glass.
The golden nose opens with touches of linseed oil, crossed over roses, tulips, relaxing touches of wet grass and plums. Raisins, musty molasses, lemon and heated apricots make a pleasant drop as we dip into a steel vat of oranges and caramelised grapefruits. It all sits on a vanilla bed that stretches beneath the weight of the top notes as they slowly sink into it, the vanilla becoming more pronounced as the time passes. In the end the Madeira wins through, and the sugar lulls the nose asleep.
Our palate is nutty, touches of steely sulphur running around, a meaty and robust mouthfeel. Baked apples, crisped lemons, cutting spice all coalesce in creme brulee and custard. The Madeira comes through again, show casing lightly burnt coffee and nuts alongside dark chocolate. It turns slightly bitter as well towards the finish, but this is expressed through the mouthfeel, helping us savour the last few drops left in the glass ad on the tongue. The finish is long, spicy, metallic and expresses rich sugary deserts.
That was nice. I worked for a Welsh fella once, and when offering him some whisky he mentioned that he had never been able to drink anything until he came across the Penderyn. Sure, there are off notes in the dram, but it tastes quite beautiful and unique, and is a solid dram for the novice or for turning the head of some of those out there that are Scotch mad. It shows promise as well. Ireland and Scotland have both made whiskies for centuries now, and the recent resurgence of whisky in Wales and England really offers more exciting opportunities for the future of world whiskies. With Penderyn leading the way, the Welsh whisky scene looks more promising each and every day. Thank you boys. I’ll raise a glass at your first match of the Six Nations to you.