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Penderyn distillery is located in the village of Penderyn, about 50 kilometres north of Cardiff in the South of Wales, and was established in 1998 by the Welsh Whisky Company. Production started in 2000, and the first single malt was launched in 2004. Penderyn's production process differs somewhat from other distilleries. Firstly, they use a pre-made fermented wash that is made to their specifications at the Cardiff-based Brain's brewery; this would not be possible in the Scottish whisky industry where the mashing and fermentation processes must happen on the same site as the distillation. Secondly, the complete process from wash to new make is done in a single copper still that was designed by David Faraday, a descendant of Michael Faraday, the famed scientist. The still has three main sections that are linked together: A copper pot still has a pipe leading from the top to another column-still-like structure and the final spirit is collected in a huge glass bulb still safe. The Penderyn Madeira finish is the distillery's standard expression. It has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in Madeira wine casks.
The nose is light, floral, and fruity with apples and grapes. There is also a rather distinct grassy element, followed by a healthy dose of wood spice. Overall I found this nose intriguing and rather pleasant, but also a bit difficult to grasp.
The palate is light-bodied and grassy. Lemon zest takes centre stage, followed by hints of sweet vanilla and malty flavours.
The finish is of medium length, spicy, and pleasantly warming. Hints of ginger appear towards the very end.
This is the first Penderyn expression that I tried, and I would say the best word to describe it is "different". It is obvious that we are dealing with a young whisky here, 4-5 years old at most, and this comes through in the underlying roughness that to a certain degree is masked by the sweetness coming from the Madeira casks. Now I tend to quite like younger whiskies if they come with a decent profile but here I was struggling to grasp the essence. Although quite pleasant this was a bit all over the place – difficult to describe, really. It will not become a permanent fixture in my whisky cabinet but was absolutely worth trying.