Penderyn Aur Cymru Review

“Give Me Just a Little More Time”

Country: Wales
Brand: Penderyn Aur Cymru (Madeira Finish)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
ABV: 46 %

Colour: Golden

Nose: Give the Penderyn sufficient time in the glass before Nosing. At least half and hour or so. It's a young Whisky and the Alcohol is quite present. At first I find Dried Fruits, New Oak, Apple Pie, light Vanilla and Toffee. After a while some Floral and Grassy tones, light Honey, White Peach, Banana, Dusty Grain, Young Bourbon and Sweet Red Wine appear as well. It certainly shows some character of its own but it would likely benefit from more Cask time. 

Palate: Quite Sweet and a bit Edgy at first and slightly Bitter and Dry later on with Young Oak, light Vanilla, Dried Fruit, light Honey, Banana, Melon, Orange, Bourbon, Sweet Red Wine, Pepper and Ginger.

Finish: Middle-Long and Sweet but later on Dry and Sharp with Oak, Banana, Melon, light Honey, Bitter Orange, Dried Fruit, Toffee, Pepper and Ginger. After a while the Madeira becomes quite noticeable.

I added a bit of water and on the Nose I find extra Honey, Malt and Mandarin. On the Palate and in the Finish the Alcohol retreats of course and that's a good thing. However, the Flavours become too thin for my taste. Try a few drops and see where it gets you!

Rating: 81

Nose: 21 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19.5 - Overall: 20.5

Penderyn VC (Picture Credit: Penderyn)

General Remarks: The Penderyn Distillery is located in the village of Penderyn in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons and became operational in 1990. Until 2014, the whole production process from Wash to New Make Spirit occurred in one Single Still and the wash was bought from a local beer brewer. But the production did not keep up with demand and in 2012 a second identical Still was installed, followed in 2014 by 2 additional traditional Pot Stills and Mashing equipment. Thus, capacity increased to 300.000 litres annually. The distillery has a very nice VC that attracts around 35.000 visitors per year. The Aur Cymru (Welsh Gold) I'm tasting today matured in Ex-Bourbons Casks for around 5 years before being finished in Ex-Madeira Casks. It's Non Chill-Filtered. It sells at around 55 US Dollars. I must congratulate Penderyn on the ,Packaging and Presentation of this Whisky. Really very nice and modern!

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good

Conclusion: Those of you who read my reviews on a regular basis will know that in general I'm not a huge fan of Red Wine finishing. I often find that the Red Wine makes the Spirit too Sweet. That's also the case with this Penderyn Aur Cymru in my opinion. But let's start with the Nose. I actually like it. There is a lot to discover considering its young age. But its youth also brings lots of edgy Alcohol and that's the reason I took away a full point. But the Character is there and the Madeira adds to the Fruity Young Spirit. Special attention for the White Peach note. Very clear as long as you carefully sniff around the edge of the Glass. As stated before, I find this Penderyn too Sweet on the Palate and the Finish is a bit rough and, well, unfinished. Would be great to see what another 5 years or so in the Ex-Bourbon Cask could do for this Spirit. It would probably better absorb the Sweet Madeira. In any case this is not a bad whisky by all means and the Penderyn Spirit shows it can stand its own ground. It just needs a little more time!

Jan van den Ende                                                         November 25, 2014

The Still at Penderyn (Picture Credit: Penderyn)

Caol Ila 12 Years Review

“Diet Islay”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Caol Ila
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 12 Years 
Alcohol: 43%

A Hidden Treasure close to Port Askaig

Colour: Pale Straw/Chardonnay Wine

Nose: BBQ time on Islay with a nice platter of Smoked Fish, Shell Fish, Ham and Bacon. Sea Salt, Lemon, Mint, Herbs and Seaweed are amply present for seasoning and decoration. It's all quite Light though when compared to Ardbeg or Laphroaig. But there is also a Soapy, Floral and Vegetal feel to this Caol Ila. I find Wet Earth, Grass and Straw. In addition there are (subtle) notes of Sweet Barley, Band Aid, Iodine, Rubber, Leather, Tobacco, Toffee, Pineapple and Orange. It's not at all bad but a bit understated. The Smoke elements remind me of JW Black.

The rather small VC

Taste: Slightly Thin Delivery although the Alcohol stings a bit. It's mostly Sweet, Musty at times and Herbal toward the end. I identify Sweet Barley, Sweet Peat, light Smoke, Tar, Ashes, Rubber, Toffee, Nuts, Flagrant Soap, Lemon, Charred Oak, Pepper, Salt and Dried Herbs.

The Wooden Washbacks

Finish: Thin but Quite Long, Dry, slightly Sour and surprisingly Ashy with Earthy Peat, BBQ Smoke, Tar, Iodine, Fish and Shell Fish, Sea Water, Flagrant Soap, Pepper, Nutmeg, Licorice, Aniseed, Lemon, light Vanilla, Sugar Candy and old Cigar Boxes.

Who is buying here??

I added a bit of Water and that enhances the Soapy feeling on the Nose. Also a bit of Fruit like in New Make Spirit. The Palate and Finish however become too Sugary Sweet. Better sip the Caol Ila 12 Years without adding Water.

Rating: 83.5

Nose: 21 - Taste: 21 – Finish: 20.5 – Overall: 21

A Glimpse of the Stainless Steel Mash Tun

General Remarks: The Caol Ila Distillery was founded in 1846 and is located close to Port Askaig on Islay. It was bought by DCL in 1927 and through some mergers is now part of Diageo. The distillery was completely rebuilt in 1974 and only one old Warehouse reminds us of former days. Traditionally, Caol Ila is an important component of Blends like Johnnie Walker, Bell's and White Horse. But during the last 10 years Diageo has made great efforts to position the Distillery as a Single Malt as well. Caol Ila is now part of the group's Classic Malts line up. The core range includes the 12 Years that I am reviewing today, the 18 Years, the 25 Years and the Cask Strength. Caol Ila produces both peated and un-peated Spirit. The 12 Years was launched in June 2002 and costs around 60 US Dollars.

Shadow Stills!

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: The Caol Ila 12 years is an excellent way to sniff and taste your way into Islay Single Malt Whisky. All the ingredients of an Islay Malt are there but they are presented in a Light and almost Mellow Way. It's almost like you're having a Diet Islay. Therefore, true Peat Heads will probably look elsewhere to satisfy their daily portion of Wet Clay and Ashes. At 60m US Dollars, the Price Vs Quality ratio is okay.

All About the Cask!

Some Data: The name Caol Ila means Sound of Islay, It's located 1 mile off the A 846 from Port Askaig to Bowmore, quite close to the Ferry. The Distillery possesses 1 new Stainless Steel Full Lauter Mash Tun, 10 Wash Backs and 3 pair of  Stills. In 2014 their total production will amount to around 6,5 million litres. As mentioned above, the Distillery was rebuilt in 1974. I have to admit that I'm not too fond of the industrial look of the complex. On the other hand, the location is nearly perfect. From the Still House you have a wonderful view on the Sound and the Isle of Jura. What a pity really you're not allowed to take pictures of the production facilities inside!

Nice Warehouse!

The water for the distillery is sourced from nearby Loch Nam Ban. From April to November, the Distillery opens from Monday to Friday from 9.15 to 17.00 hours. From April to May it also opens on Saturday from 13.30 until 16.30 and from June to October from 10.00 to 16.30 hours. From December to March Caol Ila opens from Monday to Friday from 13.30 to 16.30 hours. The Standard Tour costs 6 Pounds but you get a nice Tasting Glass after the Tour. Premium Tours can be arranged by appointment and cost around 10 Pounds.

Serious Tasting Session!

We visited CaoI Ila on a rainy Sunday May 28, 2014. We did the Standard Tour and our group only consisted of 6 people. Nevertheless, or because of that, the Tour was great and our hostess very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. As I wrote earlier, it's a pity it is not allowed to take pictures. The Stills and the view from the Still House are spectacular! It's also a pity that the small VC does not sell any miniatures. After the Tour we tasted the Moch and the 2013 Islay Festival Triple Cask. All in all, and despite the limitations, you should certainly visit Caol Ila when you're on Islay. If only for the magnificent view from the Still House!

Jan van den Ende                                                        November 22, 2014

At Caol Ila Drams Come True!

Bunnahabhain 1989 Great Cask Review

“Strange Kinda Woman”

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Bunnahabhain 1989 Great Cask Series
Selected by and Bottled for Whiskysite NL, The Netherlands
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 23 Years
ABV: 44.1 %

Colour: Light Golden

Nose: Pleasant but not very complex for a 23 Year old Single Malt. The Floral and Fruity tones like Heather, light Honey, Flagrant Soap and (Green) Apple are combined with slightly Salty Mineral notes and light Maritime Peat reminding us of the fact that this Whisky was created on Islay. I also find Mandarin, Lemon, Unripe Peach, Toasted Barley, light Varnish, Butter and Oak. The Alcohol is not completely integrated.

Palate: Sweet, Spicy and Herbal with Sweet Barley, Grass, Citrus, Aniseed, Licorice, Pepper, Toasted Oak, Minerals and hints of Maritime Peat and Leather.

Finish: Medium Long, Sweet and Spicy at first but Dry and a bit Bitter towards the end with Floral Notes (Heather, Grass), Citrus, Oak, Buttered Toast, Salt, Pepper, Cardamom and Licorice.

I added a couple of drops of water. On the Nose the Floral and Citric tones become even stronger. Some Vanilla pops up as well. Palate and Finish remain basically the same. But you can certainly play with a few drops here.

Rating: 82

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 19.5 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks: The Single Cask Bunnahabhain 1989 I'm tasting today was distilled on October 20, 1989, matured in an Ex-Bourbon Barrel, Cask # 5706 and was bottled at Cask Strength on March 7, 2013 for Whiskysite NL's the Great Cask Series. It sells at around 110 US Dollars.

Bunnahabhain (Mouth or Foot of the River) Distillery was founded around 1881 and is located close to Port Askaig. Usually, the Distillery dries the Malt with hot air or light Smoke, giving their whisky a more subtle flavour then most of its Peated neighbours on the island. 

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: I am more familiar with the peated Bunnahabhains and mixed casks expressions. Therefore this 1989 Great (Ex-Bourbon) Cask struck me as a bit odd. A pleasant Creamy Nose with Fruit, Floral tones and Maritime notes is followed by a quite Spicy, Herbal and Oaky Palate. The Finish is slightly Bitter and did not really invite me to have another sip. It's not a bad Single Malt and I liked the Nose but on the Palate and in the Finish this Bunnahabhain did not convince me. The price is stiff and I would advise to try a sample first before deciding to buy a full bottle! 

Jan van den Ende                                                         November 19, 2014