Scotland vs. Wales

Penderyn May 07 vs. Highland Park 12 yo

Have you heard of the Welsh single malt whisky called Penderyn? I have but I hadn’t tried it until last night. It was another one of Euan’s grand ideas, to resolve Wales vs. Scotland game before it even kicks off on Sunday afternoon. We headed to his Newington flat right after work, got deep fried supper from a dodgy chippie on Nicolson Street (just to ruin our pallets) and there we were, sitting in Euan’s living room and choosing a Scotch for the battle. And easy task it was not.

Euan has a respectable collection including some awesome classics. But which one of them is as Scottish as Penderyn is Welsh? Which one gathers all that is good and unique about Scotch whisky under one cork? The answer is Highland Park. It’s an all-rounder that features a wide variety of aromas and flavours, from light sweet tones to that unmistakable smoky whiff. Another reason why we chose this whisky is because we simply thought it would smash Penderyn the same way our rugby team will smash the Welsh on Sunday. And it was the overconfidence that nearly doomed us in the end.

Penderyn is made in a way that is quite different from what Scots, Irish and even Americans do. I think this passage from their website explains their distillation system clearly:

Each morning our unique copper-pot still is charged with the finest malted barley wash. As the steam heats the liquid it starts to bubble and the vapour rises into our copper column above the still. The column has a number of perforated plates and the vapour will condense on the first plate before being returned to the still. As the process continues the vapour will reach the second plate and so on, before evaporating and falling back to the still, each step leaving the spirit, smoother, softer and more refined. Eventually the spirit is drawn from the seventh plate and piped to our spirit safe where it lands, literally drop by drop, over the course of the day.

The bottom line is that they distil their whisky only once but a system of copper plates in a tall rectifying column developed by Dr David Faraday ensures multiple refluxes. That is well clever, but is the spirit any good? Oh yeah. Bourbon (mainly Buffalo Trace) and Madeira matured Penderyn is an uncovered gem. It’s unusual and it doesn’t taste like anything you have tried before. This uniqueness and ridiculously nice packaging makes it something special, something I would buy for a friend who claims to have had tried everything.

Euan thinks it’s the Madeira puncheon that makes it special and distinctive. We could not think of any other young whisky matured in this kind of barrel, except for Ballechin 2nd release that is so heavily peated that it’s hard to judge what the wood did to it really. Penderyn boys and girls might have gotten this one spot on then. Bravo.

First half – Penderyn

Nose: When I first inhaled it I thought, oh my God, I know this, it’s… eeer… just a second… An hour and thousands of I-know-what-it-is claims later Euan came up with the idea of jelly beans. It was a good one but wasn’t quite it. Then he said ‘vanilla yoghurt’ and that was even closer. I suggested kiwi yoghurt and Euan eventually transformed that into peach, kiwi and vanilla yoghurt sprinkled with jelly beans. From my side I added German banana milk, autumn leaves, hay and freshly cut grass. Overall it’s light with those funny fruito-dairish top notes and dustiness to it. It’s quite immature and too fresh but in a charming way. How slow is that? It took us absolute ages but we are convinced the yoghurt is a decent comparison that many of you may find accurate. A strong start by the Welsh, first penalty between Scottish posts. Well done.

Euan had a sneaky sniff of the Highland Park and started laughing frantically. “Shoe polish” was the verdict. Couldn’t help laughing myself. That’s a good drop-kick, Wales are 6 points ahead.

Palate: Overwhelmingly strong flavour of sweet, toffee fudge. Ethery and spicy. Quite pleasant but not awfully well balanced. Who cares though? Err… ref does! Penalty conceded, it’s 3-6.

Finish: Coriander and citrus. A bit short here.

Second half – Highland Park 12 yo

Nose: Leather and shoe polish dominate. It’s gorgeously rich and mouth-watering after the immature Welshman. With time reveals apples, cherries, wax, grass and weed of all sorts. Strong statement and Scotland are through with a try, 8-6.

Palate: It’s much smoother but just as complex as the other one. Warmer and darker. Lightly peaty and beautiful. That’s a conversion over and Scotland are now ahead by 4 points. Come on Wales!

Finish: Peatier and earthier than I remember it. Everlasting. A cheeky but well deserved drop-kick for Scotland. 13-6

Extra time

You think the game is over? So does the Scottish team. They are well confident now, seven points clear from last year’s winners of the Grand Slam. But me and Euan keep going back and forth now. We uncover new layers of strawberry on Penderyn’s nose, it seems a bit richer now. That’s a late try. Conversion is on target and all of a sudden it’s a hot, hot, hot 13-11. Wales in possession, their forwards are inching towards the Scottish tryline. Our defence is brave but overwhelmed… and then ref ends the game. 13-11 is the final score and Scotland won deservedly. Wales fought bravely and hail to them. Great effort.

And now seriously. Penderyn, despite being terribly inconsistent according to Jim Murray, is a perfectly drinkable whisky that makes an awesome gift for every connoisseur or enthusiast. Highly recommended!

Thanks a million Euan for organising this for me.


You can get it here for £30.49

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