Among my (whisky-informed) friends the name is almost a curse word.
“You mean Irish?”
“Keep that piss away from me”
That’s usually how the conversation will go anytime someone brings up the Welsh distillery.
So in light of it being St. David’s day last week I decided the time was right to bring out a 5 dram tasting set gifted to me by my missus’ brother for my birthday last year.
Personally, I’d never tried any of their expressions didn’t feel right ctiticising them without actually standing back and giving them the chance; but, I’ll be honest, from the aforementioned banter and from a few of the (very polarised) reviews I’ve read I was sort of reluctant to do this, possibly the reason the set had survived so long in my cupboard.
I did one dram a day starting on the Monday for 2 reasons:
- So as not to muddle my palate and allow a clear tasting for each dram.
- So that if they did turn out to be bollocks at least I could have something else afterwards and not still have another however many to get through.
The full line-up consisted of:
- Grand Slam Edition 2012
- Portwood 41
Right then, info out of the way, let’s see what Welsh whisky is about then, shall we?
Penderyn Myth – 41.00%
NOSE – 26
A lovely sweet sugary nose with clear aromas of pear drops and apples.
Very pleasant and very promising.
PALATE – 18
This palate is all sweet softness and summer fruits (peaches, pears & apples), but everything doesn’t seem to be there in enough measure.
Unfortunately very weak, but what is there is nice.
FINISH – 11
A quick finish with barely any lingering flavours and no heat remaining.
PERSONAL – 5
Fantastic sweet summer nose that is let down by the lack of carry through to taste.
A real shame that this didn’t capitalise on it’s really, pretty great start.
TOTAL SCORE – 60
Penderyn Legend– 41.00%
NOSE – 19
Fairly spirity initially and then the madeira and faintly, pear drops come through. Some honey, dried fruit and possibly cereal start to present and then back to spirit.
PALATE – 13
A little honey sweetness, fruitiness (raisins?) and then suddenly bitterness overtakes the sugar. Spirit is present but not at an offensive level.
Acetone-like notes rise up towards rear of tongue and in the throat.
Fairly one note – bitter.
Finish is very short and mainly bitter with the acetone from palate rising again.
PERSONAL – 3
Again, a nose that could have lead to something fruity and lovely but ultimately let me down.
Bitterness was too present and not well balanced with sweetness or lighter floral notes to remain pleasant.
When the dominant tasting notes you taste are acetone and bitterness something has gone wrong.
I struggled to finish it.
TOTAL SCORE – 48
Penderyn Celt– 41.00%
NOSE – 22
A salty yet predominantly fruity nose.
Quite light, floral and pleasant with gossamer thin traces of peat and ash showing through.
PALATE – 22
Wow, that’s a surprise.
Peat comes to the fore straight away and mingles with salt.
Damsons briefly start to present along with other dark, rich fruit.
FINISH – 16
The peat dies back for the finish and there is a small bitter mixing with the earlier fruitiness.
Not a lot of fire and everything dissipates rather quickly leaving only a hint of smoky bitterness.
PERSONAL – 6
I rather enjoyed that.
A great improvement on the Myth and Legend.
Much more substantial flavours and a greater development on the tongue – from a fruity nose with a wispy hint of smoke to a fuller less-fruity peat on the palate.
TOTAL SCORE – 66
Penderyn Grand Slam Edition 2012 – 46.00%
NOSE – 18
Madeira shows straight away with dried fruit and the slightest hint of cereal.
PALATE – 17
Dried fruit is dominant on the palate with some creaminess. Vanilla shows briefly and then dies back to leave a slight bitter nuttiness.
FINISH – 20
Finish is medium length and velvety smooth.
Bitterness drops away and smooths out into savoury grain with the rounded out by the madeira.
PERSONAL – 5
Pleasant but slightly one dimensional.
A little dominated by dried fruit and cereal but once these die back in the finish it’s character deepens.
TOTAL SCORE – 60
Penderyn 41 Portwood– 41.00%
NOSE – 18
A rich fruity nose but there are notes of acetone starting to peak out over the top of the fruit.
A little too spirity.
Plummy notes become stronger over time.
PALATE – 19
Fairly oakey initially then opens out to be creamy and fruity.
Red grapes show again and become stronger with each sip.
FINISH – 22
Rich fruity finish with a little fire on the gums but none in the throat.
Oakeyness dies back to leave dates and red grapes as the leading notes.
Some nuttiness noticeable.
PERSONAL – 5
Pleasant but a little too spirity on the nose.
Palate is nice but it’s the finish that wins it.
Would go well with cheese or bread and olives.
TOTAL SCORE – 64
Out of the 5 above expressions the Celt wins it for me hands down – so much so that I convinced Tom to try a drop at WhiskyBirmingham over the weekend.
We couldn’t taste it at all after our tastebuds had been knocked-for-six by a round of cask strengths but the sentiment was there.
The Penderyn’s that I tried weren’t really up my street, but I sort-of see why some people would like them.
I still don’t understand the 5-star reviews as I don’t think anything here is either complex enough or refined enough to be anywhere near thatb high a rating yet.
The main problem for me was four-fold:
Except for the Grand Slam Edition 2012 (46.00%) all of the ABVs here were 41.00%. To me that is far too low to create any level of decent texture in the mouth.
Flavour is also fairly fleeting and thin and I reckon this contributed to the overall poor rating for finish and the massive drop-off in ratings following the nose.
I think the 41 Portwood was the exception to this as there is so much flavour in port casks that in this case has carried through and saved the day.
As I’ve stated before in other reviews, wine cask finishes for me can be very hit and miss and unfortunately i simply don’t like madeira.
I don’t like it as a wine and I don’t like it in my whisky.
So far I haven’t discovered anything that it brings to the table that is worth bringing and when both Legend and Grand Slam had finishing periods in ex-madeira casks they were already on a losing footing going in.
A growing problem in the whisky industry is demand outstripping supply, causing the growth of the NAS, no-age-statement, bottlings.
Now, I’ve had some fantastic NAS drams before but they have been a small percentage of the whole.
To me they tend to lack the character that comes with age.
Penderyn Distillery started producing spirit in 2000.
Why in the name of all that is holy do they not have a core range of age statement expressions yet.
A 10 year old, a 12 year old and a 15?
As a relatively young distiller they are at the turning point now where they should be nailing down their brand by bottling age-statements which in turn would demand higher prices and, as long as the product was half-way decent, would start to cement and nurture their reputation.
I’m all for innovation and breaking the mold, but not this way.
- Personal Taste
Penderyn has a very distinct flavour profile, all of it’s own.
In the same way you can instantly recognise Kilchoman, Laphroaig or Dalmore I would equally say that Penderyn does too.
My problem – I don’t really like it.
As fantastic as it is for them to have their own signature taste, if you don’t like it, that’s pretty much the end of the road.
I’ve since given the Cask Strength offering a go and found it again to be lacking any more flavour or balance and I still just don’t really have the taste for it.
I think I’ll pass on any Penderyn that is offered my direction for the foreseeable future unless it’s something that really peaks my interest as they just don’t do enough for me to pick them as my pour, especially over something else.
To be fair, I have to say that the Celt was completely fine and if I owned a bottle it would no doubt be drunk over a prolonged period, but again, their style just isn’t for me.
So unfotunately, in answer to the question in the title, I’m going to have to say…
(Not) Complete Shit.
Need a good bit of work and refinement but there’s a bit of promise in there.
N.B. I’d just like to give big props to the Whisky Tasting Company for a brilliantly presented tasting set.
It came complete with playing card style tasting notes (which I didn’t look at until I’d made my own), a place mat, the 5 well labelled bottles and all in a nice luxurious black box.
If they had some tasting sets currently on offer that I was interested in then I’d be buying one now.