Skip to main content

What is the best Penderyn?

In the years following its inception in 2000, the Penderyn distillery has been turning out some truly impressive spirits, and with it, ending a century-long hiatus of whisky-making in Wales. It all started during a chat one night at the Glancynon Inn, when a group of friends were discussing their dream of putting the country back on the whisky world map. 

They did this in the charming village of Penderyn, choosing the spot for its supply of natural spring water – an essential ingredient in the production of a good whisky. They installed a unique single Faraday still (notable for producing a spirit higher in alcohol), and in 2004, distillation was underway.

Today, a little over two decades later, the distillery has become an iconic symbol of Wales, filling the trophy chest with medals and awards from all manner of competitions, and creating a range of fabulously rich, complex, delicious single malt whisky. Penderyn has gone on to open a further to distilleries in Wales, one in the north in Llandudno and an urban branch in Swansea. 

Inside Penderyn Llandudno, the Faraday still is on the right

So, which is the best Penderyn? 

We’ve taken the liberty of ranking five of our favourites, but we’ve gone a step further and upped the Welshness.

That’s right, we’ve named the very best whiskies from Penderyn and (naturally) paired each with a vintage and equally well-rated Anthony Hopkins performance. It’s an all-Welsh bonanza!

#5 Penderyn Sherrywood Finish 

The Hopkins: The Edge

The light, fruity character of Penderyn is due, in no small part, to the unique still designed by Dr David Faraday (a descendant of none other than Michael Faraday). It took eight years to develop, and the result was a copper pot still which could produce different grades of alcohol in a single fractioning column. We don’t know what that means, either. However, we have heard that it makes a high-strength spirit, which allows for a very smooth, supple final product.

The spirit is initially matured in ex-bourbon barrels, before a finish in oloroso sherry casks. The rich, nutty, slightly sweet sherry imparts all manner of deep, complex flavours to the whisky. 

This, of course, pairs wonderfully with the 1997 survival thriller, The Edge. In it, Hopkins must brave the Alaskan wilderness with photographer Alec Baldwin, whom he later discovers is having an affair with his wife. It’s all there, and the David Mamet script offers our man Hopkins plenty of meaty dialogue on which to chew. It also stars Bart, a legendary Kodiak bear whose IMDB reads like a Greatest Hits of Hollywood Kodiak bear performances.

Best quote: “Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane.”

#4 Penderyn Peated

The Hopkins: The Bounty

In at number 4 in what is already feeling like an incredibly tenuous article, we have an unusual expression in the form of the smoky Penderyn Peated. It’s also a limited edition, with only around 5,000 bottles produced per year. The maturation uses both ex-bourbon and wine casks (characteristic of the distillery). They finish the ageing in quarter casks previously used by the Laphroaig distillery to inject the peat flavour (as opposed to the traditional method of peat-fired kilning you’d get on say, Islay).

The result is a multi-award-winning single malt. These include gold medals from the Spirits Business and an ‘outstanding’ from the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

Pop on 1984s The Bounty and let the Vangelis score wash over you, as well as the Peated’s nose of tart apple and light, woody, aromatic smoke. Is that a hint of vanilla? Why yes, it sure is. The palate is citrussy and creamy. The apple note continues with more of that gentle smoke. It’s a rather unique peat, with a real subtlety. The finish is medium-long, with lasting smoke and custard. It goes excellently with Hopkins’ increasingly unhinged portrayal of Captain Bligh as he makes the journey to Tahiti to collect breadfruit. Spoiler alert: there’s a mutiny, led by a dashing Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian.

Best quote: “Oh, there are rumblings, are there?”

#3 Penderyn Madeira Finish

The Hopkins: Howards End

Our bronze medallists and that rare combination of Hopkins and Madeira cask-finished single malt whisky… Both of these have been lauded by the critics, including a Gold from the World Whisky Masters in 2018 (the whisky), and a perfect four stars from Roger Ebert (the Hopkins). 

For Penderyn, this is essentially the house style – Welsh single malt aged in bourbon barrels and finished in ex-Madeira wine casks. It’s that heady mix of both the creamy, vanilla from the bourbon wood and hints of dried fruits from the Madeira cask. It also takes on a lovely deep gold colour and, with an ABV of 46%, it has plenty of complexity and intensity.

The spirit is as classic as the EM Forster novel on which the whisky’s accompanying film was based. Pop in the VHS/press play on Netflix, and pour out a dram. You’ll get a nose of lovely toffee, dried fruit, plenty of malt, and a light dusting of dry spice. This gives way to a round, medium-rich palate with digestive biscuits, custard apple, and sweet spices. The finish is long and sweet, with dry oak on the tail – a long finish for a long film with a 142-minute runtime… James Ivory’s 1992 adaption of Howards End is perfect fodder for a restrained, guarded Hopkins. Emma Thompson is sublime in the lead role. 

Best quote: “Since you put it with your usual delicacy, yes I was.”

#2 Penderyn Hiraeth

The Hopkins: The Remains of the Day

Hopkins playing a repressed, inhibited, quietly emotional man in a period drama… What more could you possibly want? Well, perhaps a nice glass of Welsh single malt to wash it all down and really savour the perfect recurring combo of Emma Thompson and our beloved Tony H.

Hiraeth is a wonderful Welsh word which roughly translates as a yearning for the homeland, or a deep longing. Remind anyone of a certain butler, deeply and quietly longing for the housekeeper (played by Thompson) in the profoundly moving adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, The Remains of the Day? (Really shoehorned-in that segue…)

The whisky is from Penderyn’s Icons of Wales series, matured in bourbon casks. You’ll get bold bourbon notes on the nose – vanilla, light spice, a little oak… You can also expect floral aromas, dried fruits, and hints of citrus. The palate is medium-bodied and honey-led. Vanilla and light spice give way to a medley of apple and light citrus, which build to a malty, oaky finish. It’s elegant, it’s underplayed, it’s just like our Hopkins.

Best quote: “I’d be lost without her… A first-rate housekeeper is essential in a house like this where great affairs are decided, between these walls.”

#1 Penderyn Portwood

The Hopkins: The Silence of the Lambs

It pours the Penderyn in its glass, or else it gets the hose again… 

In at the number one spot, taking the gold in the hotly contested battle of the Penderyns could be none other than the glorious Portwood. It’s won more awards than you can shake a stick at (if shaking sticks at awards is something you like to do). It’s a full-bodied, rich, intense whisky, and to pair it with 1991’s Silence of the Lambs is even better than some fava beans and a nice Chianti. 

The nose is rich, aromatic and full of lovely raisins, hints of prune, cranberry, cocoa, and maybe a touch of walnut. The palate is equally full-bodied, with manuka honey and creamy vanilla melding wonderfully with toasty oaky spice and ripe plums. There’s sweet honey which dances on the palate and develops into a very long, oaky, spicy finish. 

It’s a favourite of ours, as is Hopkins’ terrifying performance as Dr Hannibal Lecter. Aside from some of his more sinister proclivities, he was a man who enjoyed the finer things life had to offer, and we like to think he’d have appreciated the fortified wine influence you get with Penderyn Portwood.

Best quote: Quid pro quo – I tell you things, you tell me things. Not about this case, though. About yourself.”

We have a winner!

We’ve been on quite a journey together, haven’t we? Did it make sense? You be the judge.

We hope at the very least it has illustrated the calibre of the Penderyn distillery. In such a short space of time, it went from the kernel of an idea at a pub to a fully fledged working distillery with awards and plaudits aplenty. The whiskies are a veritable Bounty, if you’ll excuse the pun…


The post What is the best Penderyn? appeared first on Master of Malt Blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.