August bank holiday is a traditional time of rain, festivals, rain, traffic jams and rain. We decided to go to South Wales with a group of friends and despite the Met Office warnings optimistically planned a 17 mile walk for Saturday (with a half way pub stop) and set our alarm for the morning. We awoke to what could almost be considered sunshine and managed to complete the walk unscathed except for one fairly major downpour that had us dressed in all manner of waterproof attire. Now being a bank holiday we had another full day in the area and what better way to spend it than drying a mere 20 miles through the Brecon Beacons in search of the only legal distillery in Wales – Penderyn!
We arrived unannounced and unbooked, and after looking forlorn at the prospect of not being admitted all six of our party were placed on the next tour. First up is a museum section; one side of the room charting the history of whisky from about 3000BC, the other a more in-depth look at Penderyn with a rather nice display of collectable and sold out bottles from the distillery. After about 15 minutes the tour itself started and we were led through to the next room where our tour guide (who was expectational) guided us through the production of whisky in general and also through the way Penderyn operates. There are differences for those who have visited Scotland – Penderyn takes its wash from the local brewery and doesn’t malt or have any wash backs on site. The stills are also very different; rather than the traditional shape you may be expecting they are what is known as a ‘single copper pot still’. This allows the distillery to produce spirit at a huge 92%, which is higher than even Auchentoshan in the lowlands of Scotland. This single still also means that Penderyn only produce one cask per day making it a reasonably rare whisky.
We then moved across the room to view the bottling plant (which wasn’t running as it was Sunday). It is lovely to see that Penderyn bottle whisky on site, completing the production process before the consumer gets to try the whisky! Our guide also explained the different cask finishes that they use – casks that previously contained madeira wine, port, sherry and peated whisky (from Kilchoman in Islay). The only limiting factor of the tour was that we couldn’t actually walk around the distillery itself – we had to view it through a window. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from making the trip.
It was then time to try the whisky. The £6 entry fee also included two samples from the current range of Penderyn spirits (or a miniature if you were driving). I opted for the Sherry Wood and the distillery only (it was bottled for the French market) Port Wood:
Penderyn Port Wood [41%]
Colour: Pink. It’s very reminiscent of the early Bruichladdich Black Art releases.
Nose: Full of apricots and summer fruits, like a homemade Eton Mess, sweet and spicey.
Palate: Very light and summery, strawberry and citrus flavours mixed in with shortbread.
Finish: Short and Sweet.
Overall the Port Wood is a lovely dram; so nice in fact that I came away with a bottle of it – well it’s either buy now or travel to France to pick one up!
If you are in the Brecon’s area then I would recommend a visit to this tiny distillery. You’ll receive a warm welcome, learn a lot about Welsh spirit and taste some fine whisky.