My whisky collection keeps growing. Both via the newly acquired rare bottles, which for some reason or other, I must own, and via the numerous samples I purchase from the various [online] tastings. These particular little bottles accumulate on my shelves, and I must be diligent in consuming them before they deteriorate. The tightly sealed glass bottles are okay – but I have a few samples in plastic vessels. That is actually one of my worries before I set out for this tasting of two drams from Penderyn – they have been indeed in these tiny little plastic bottles for some time now [since the original Penderyn tasting, so a little over two months now], and I’m worried that the whisky inside is a little bit tainted. I guess we’ll find out. Let’s get this on, shall we? But first, we need music! Now playing: CELL – Onwards System.
For my approach to tasting, I’m trying something new and starting with a “baseline” dram – a whisky that I’m very familiar with, to see how my subjects compare. I won’t comment much on this reference dram here, but I think it’s a good idea to see how they stand apart. In this case, I picked the trusted Balvenie DoubleWood 12-year-old – it’s sherried and is at 40% ABV – a good enough taste benchmark for this pairing. The Sherrywood is first – it’s been aged in ex-bourbon casks and ex-oloroso sherry butts [so it’s a vatting in a single batch, with 70-75% a bourbon-aged whisky] and bottled at 46% ABV. It’s pretty fragrant, and I immediately smell bananas, some ripe plums and sweet red apples. It’s sweet and smooth, and there is something else – a hint of rich vanilla with some walnuts. The finish is a little short, with woodsy spice and [again] sherry. Overall it’s an excellent dram – I dare say a notch above Balvenie. I really like the aftertaste beyond the finish; it’s candied in that bourbon way with still a bit of that banana. At this time, all of Penderyn’s releases are non-age statement single malts, and they’re known to be young whiskies. The bourbon-aged malt is about 3-4 years old, and the sherried malt is about 7-8 years. It is surprisingly decadent for being this young and, as I said, feels fuller than the baseline.
I wonder if this is all a product of those Faraday stills employed uniquely by this Welsh distillery (named after its designer, Dr David Faraday from the University of Surrey, who is, indeed. the descendent of Michael Faraday). It is a hybrid still – a combination of a pot and column distillation. The spirit is collected at 90% and is incredibly clean and light, which may explain the missing harshness. It’s also strong enough to really pull the flavour from the wood. The Portwood is not just darker in colour; it’s darker on the nose and a bit sweeter while having some cranberries and raspberries in the background. Before I forget, it’s also bottled at 46% ABV, so it’s a fair side-by-side pairing. It’s sweeter on the palate, too, with lovely dry peach dipped in caramel and cream, more of those stewed plums and some raisins. It’s slightly different from Sherrywood in its ageing process. Instead of a blend of two different casks in a single vatting, this is a finished malt in Portwood casks [so like a Balvenie DoubleWood indeed], and behind all those creamy dark-sweet veils, I taste the Penderyn in all its glory. The good news, which I should have pointed out right away [and something I’m pleased about], is that both whiskies held up well, and I don’t taste a hint of any plastic in the drams here. Whew! That’s really comforting because I have two more 30ml bottles [ex-tawny port pipe and ex-rye small-batch expressions – perhaps for a near-future tasting]. Finally, let’s mention the prices of these two: the Sherrywood is somewhere around the £43 mark, and the Portwood is about £60.
And with that said, I will conclude. I really like the Portwood with its flavour. However, it’s a bit more pricey than the Sherrywood, and although it’s less than an extra 20 quid, it’s nearly a 50% markup from the former. Depends on how you look at this. I also appreciate the vatting more than just a finish, and as I said, the Sherrywood has older drams in the mix. With that, I will proclaim the Sherrywood a winner, although I’ll probably get both of these, for different occasions, of course. Oh, and I found both to be a notch better than Balvenie!