Penderyn single malt reviews

Sticking your nose in where it does belong is the key to releasing the full flavour

If you want to approach tasting a whisky à la Oz Clarke or Jilly Goolden then stick your nose in where it belongs – the glass. Only four basic flavours can be detected by taste; bitter, sour, sweet and salt, but the human nose has more than 1000 different smell identifiers. And a single malt whisky can carry up to 400 aromas.

Penderyn Peated and Madeira single malts should be in the cabinet of every Welshman

According to those with ‘the nose’, Penderyn single malt varieties have aromas of honey, vanilla, toast, malt, smoke, nuts, flowers and fruits. But you won’t truly know until you take the plunge.

Penderyn Madeira Finished Single Malt Whisky (46%)
This single malt defines Penderyn’s house style of whisky. Matured in bourbon barrels, finished in rich Madeira wine casks and bottled at premium strength, it’s smooth, light in character and softly golden in colour.
This has an exceptionally balanced taste with an aroma of cream toffee, tropical fruits and vanilla. The vanilla follows through in the taste, along with a deliciously warming Madeira wine note.

Penderyn Sherrywood Single Malt Whisky (46%)
This is finished to impart a generous flavour of subtle complexity. Enhanced by rich tones of dry sherry, Penderyn has created a single malt which delivers the sweetness of a sherry alongside the richness and warmth of a whisky.
Sherrywood yields rich dark fruits and caramels from the dry Oloroso sherry casks. The taste begins with a kick of sweetness and gives way to refreshing dryness which persists into the finish.

Penderyn Peated Single Malt Whisky (46%)
The distillers at Penderyn swore they would never produce a peated whisky. But after a mix-up in Scotland, where they bought peated barrels from Islay, they ended up with one.
Luckily for them it proved a firm favourite among drinkers. With a beautifully sweet aromatic smokiness, this single malt gives way to refreshing citrus and green apple notes. For those who find drinking Laphroaig like inhaling a bonfire, this is the malt for you.

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Penderyn distillery is producing Welsh gold

Pendetyn distillery produce only one barrel of spirit a day

Penderyn distillery produces only one barrel of spirit a day

Prized globally for its purity, Welsh gold has a history stretching back thousands of years. But, if you believe what you hear around the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, there is a new Welsh gold which is just as coveted – wysgi.

Taking its name from the old Welsh village which is its home, Penderyn is the only distillery in Wales and is producing some of the finest whisky in the world today, with each bottle carrying the initials for Aur Cymru (Welsh gold).

One of only two existing bottles of the Frongoch Whisky is held at the distillery (the other is owned by HRH Prince of Wales)

Dreamt up by a group of men gathered in a pub, Penderyn distillery began life at the dawn of the new millennium. What they created, with the help of a millionaire backer and a natural water source, is one of the most innovative distilleries in the world.

But Penderyn was not the first Welsh malt whisky to grace the world’s lips.

That honour briefly belonged to Frongoch Whisky Company, based near Bala, more than a century ago. But the burgeoning whisky company, which received the royal seal of approval from Queen Victoria, folded soon after 1900. Mystery surrounds the exact reason for the liquidation of the company but legend tells of the distiller being killed by his horse before he had told anyone else how to produce the sought after drink.

After a barren century for Welsh whisky Penderyn began distilling on September 2000, and in March 2004 guests tasted the first single malt whisky to be made anywhere in Wales for more than 100 years.

Its quality lies in its unique production method. Whereas Scottish and Irish distilleries use two or three traditional stills, Penderyn uses a unique one pot still, developed by Dr David Faraday, a direct descendent of the father of modern electricity Sir Michael Faraday.

But before you can create a malt whisky, you have to produce a malted barley wash – made by the same fermentation process as beer minus the hops.

To create this foundation of their product, Penderyn employs Cardiff brewers S.A. Brain & Co to create a malted barley wash to the distillers’ exact specifications, which arrives at the distillery at 8 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) in tankers several times a week. Every morning Penderyn charge their still with 2,500 litres of 8 per cent ABV barley wash, and by the end of the day collect back just 250 litres of  spirit at 92 per cent ABV.

The distillation cycle lasts nine hours and when the still falls silent only one cask of Penderyn spirit is produced.

Dr Farady's one pot still is a world first in distilling

Once the still has been filled, coils inside heat up and the distillation process begins. In stages, the steam created reaches a series of condensing plates, concentrating the alcohol and leaving the spirit smoother and more refined. Eventually, at 92 per cent ABV, it is drawn from the seventh plate in the still column.

Far too strong to go into a barrel, it is combined with their own natural water source located underneath the distillery to reduce it to the cask strength of 63.4 per cent ABV. It is at this strength they start off the mercurial maturation process in the barrels to convert it into a celebrated whisky. But it cannot legally be called a whisky until it has been maturing for at least three years and one day – the one day to accommodate leap years.

The barrels used to store the whisky are crucial to the final flavour and colour. Penderyn uses some of the finest Kentucky bourbon barrels in the world to begin their maturation. The wood in each cask acts like a sponge, holding up to five litres of whatever was held before, and imparts a rich flavour while removing impurities.

Dr Jim Swan, Penderyn’s master distiller and one of only five such experts in the world, noses each of Penderyn’s 3,500 barrels and only when he says it is ready will it take its final journey. The whisky is re-casked into highly prized Maderia casks to develop the whisky’s smoothness and depth of flavour. Around 8,000 whiskies are bottled a month and are sold around the world.

Distillery tour guide Nest Llewellyn, who admits disliking whisky, said despite 25,000 visitors taking the distillery tour each year some locals remain in the dark. “We have had people from America and Korea come and they know about us before they arrive and then we can have somebody from up the road who hasn’t heard of us before. It’s very strange.”

Penderyn Distillery tours (£6 adults, £4 concessions) should be booked in advance. Whisky tasting session included.


Black Cock Inn Sunday roast

Black Cock Inn tucked away on top of Caerphilly Mountain (Flickr pic by missy & the universe)

Black Cock Inn tucked away on top of Caerphilly Mountain (Flickr pic by missy & the universe)

A pub Sunday roast can often be a disappointment. The portions never live up to a home roast and everyone prefers their mum’s roast potatoes, except your mum, who prefers anyone else cooking the roast anytime, anywhere.

Last Sunday I travelled up to Caerphilly on a gloriously sunny day and drove to the top of Caerphilly Mountain for panoramic views and a crisp breeze to blow away the horrific hangover I had given myself the night before.

Just down the road from the mountain top is the Black Cock Inn. I googled ‘Caerphilly pub’ before we left the house and the Black Cock was the first pub I came across. It looked decent on the web and my mind was in no mood for further searches.

We arrived around 12.30pm to find a large car park next to the Inn and a horse parked up outside, very Wild West. As we walked towards the pub I hoped I hadn’t chosen a turkey. We were hungry for roast and on top of a mountain. I needn’t have worried.

On arrival you find the pub has two areas. One is a small bar for drinkers and the rest of the pub is taken up by a bar and restaurant area which seemed vast when we arrived, but was soon filled up by 1pm – all good signs.

The drinkers bar was cosy and full of stripped wood and had a sleeping pub dog led by the fire. Continuing with the animal theme, the bar in the restaurant area had a bird cage in the corner with a parrot inside. Random, but interesting. The bar and restaurant continued the stripped wood theme. There is also a good-sized beer garden with a children’s play area and outside seating. I didn’t test out the kids climbing frames but may return in summer to do that.

We sat down to eat and scanned the menu. Roasts on offer were beef, pork, turkey and lamb. I opted for the beef and my friend went for the pork. When it came to ordering drinks I opted for a pint of coke, my head still throbbing at this point, but my friend went for a pint of Wye Valley Brewery’s Butty Bach (4.5%). Butty Bach means ‘little friend’ in Welsh, but in the condition I was in I couldn’t bring myself to say hello to it, let alone have a sip. So I will have to take my friend’s word for it when he sang its praises. It was Highly Commended in the Best Bitter category at the 2009 World Beer Awards, so it has pedigree.

Within 10 minutes our meals arrived. Each plate had generous portions of meat, roast and new potatoes, a Yorkshire pudding and gravy (as well as a huge gravy boat for the table). Along with our plates came a dish full of carrots, cabbage, mashed swede and another of cauliflower cheese.

My beef was delicious and tender and the accompanying vegetables were wonderful, especially the cauliflower cheese. My friend’s pork was superb by all accounts and he got some seriously crunchy crackling as well. It was a first-rate pub roast and by the end of it my hangover was a distant memory.

After such a satisfying main meal we decided to push the boat out and have a dessert as well. At £10.95 for one course or £12.95 for two courses it felt rude not too.

I chose the homemade strawberry roulade and my friend’s eye settled on the pecan pie. Along with our desserts we received a large jug of cream; this is a pub that isn’t picky with its portions. The homemade roulade was soft, unctuous and full of whipped cream and strawberry sauce. The pecan pie looked tasty but I think I made the right decision.

Throughout the meal the waitress was friendly and helpful and asked if we would like any more vegetables with our main. You don’t get that everywhere! Even with the restaurant filling up there weren’t any delays with our food or cleaning away our plates and the pub had a lively and family friendly atmosphere. Definitely worth a Sunday drive out to.

Following my own advice on the winning combination that is a pub meal, pint (admittedly it was coke this time) and a castle, we headed off to Caerphilly Castle after lunch. We parked in the car park directly opposite the impressively imposing castle and got out next to a statue of Tommy Cooper, a proud son of Caerphilly whose memorial was unveiled in 2008 by Anthony Hopkins.

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After paying our £4 entry fee we went for a postprandial walk around the impressively restored castle and moats. It is the largest Castle in Wales and second largest in Britain, after Windsor Castle, and has been used as a filming location for the BBC series, Merlin.

As we walked back to the car park I spotted a pub with astonishing views across the moat to the castle called The Courthouse, but as our parking ticket had just expired we couldn’t stop and have a pint. We may have dodged a bullet however, as its reviews on Beer in the Evening seem to show it has gone downhill a bit. Still, the outside drinking area would be a great place for a summer pint looking across to the castle.

If you fancy a change from Cardiff, make a date with the Black Cock Inn in Caerphilly. Its roasts and service won’t disappoint.

Mine’s a pint (of coke).


Pies and pints at The Goat Major

Pie perfection with a pint (Flickr pic by Rick Scully)

Pie perfection with a pint (Flickr pic by Rick Scully)

Regular readers of Cardiff Drinks will know I am a firm fan of The Goat Major. Its dark wood panelling, green leather seating and choice of real ales ticks my boxes for a perfect pint experience. But now I have discovered another reason to champion the pub. Its pies.

I was due to meet up with an old university friend who was in Cardiff for the weekend visiting family. We decided we would go for a few pints and a catch-up in the afternoon whilst the rest of the city manically shopped itself into a frenzy before Christmas arrived.

Needing somewhere to meet my mate, I opted for the easiest landmark for him to find on his first visit to Cardiff. The castle. All cities should have one, just for sheer convenience when needing somewhere to rendezvous.

After meeting at said large-walled venue we needed to choose a pub to patronise. The Goat Major being 20 paces away won the contest before it began. Location aside, the pub is a great place to take first time visitors to Cardiff. It has a well kept pint of Brains, great atmosphere and, as we were soon to learn, a menu full of pie perfection. In fact, The Goat’s menu only does pies. But it’s all the better for it. Why be jack of all trades and master of none when you can be the prima pie specialist of the city?

And be in no doubt about the quality of the pies. Former head chef Adam Pavey’s Wye Valley Pie won Pie of the Year in the 2010 Great British Pie Week awards. When Chef Pavey left,  landlady Kelly Rowland turned “pie ninja” and took over kitchen duties. It’s safe to say the pies have lost none of their magic.

On the beer front I’ll cut a short story even shorter and say we had started with Brains SA (4.2%) and stayed on it for the next four pints. I often have a variety of ales when I go for a drink but sometimes you just want to settle down with a session ale where you know what you’re going to get every sup.

It was a Saturday afternoon and the pub’s seating was full, so we set ourselves up on the corner of the bar near the entrance and decided to wait it out to grab a table to eat at. After a pint, and a growing desire to attack a pie, we perused the menu and decided to order and eat on the corner of the bar, which the friendly bar staff were more than happy to let us do.

I opted for the Venison and Brains Stout pie (£7.50) and my friend went for the award-winning Wye Valley Pie (£7.50). Described as “heaven in a pie” by the judges who awarded it the top pie prize of 2010, the Wye Valley Pie is an indulgent combination of locally sourced buttered chicken, asparagus and new potatoes, topped with a layer of creamy Tintern Abbey Cheese and puff pastry. It met with the approval of my friend and on having a cheeky taste myself I have to agree it is a winning winter warmer.

My Venison and Brains Stout pie was equally delicious and the accompaniment of chips and garden peas kept things simple and tasty, letting the pie take top billing. They were superior pies that did everything a pie should.

There is something intrinsically right about pies and pints. They are the perfect combination any time, but during the long winter months they come into their own.

So this winter make a date with a pie, a pint and a castle. It’s a combination that can’t fail.

Mine’s a pie.


The Albany

Trudging through the rain-soaked streets of Roath in search of a pub I had been heartily recommended by a man who knows a thing or two about fine Cardiff hostelries, I lifted my head and saw a warm and inviting glow coming from the corner of Donald Street. As I got closer, the sounds of laughter and hustle and bustle seeping out of the doors grew louder and I hoped this was my destination. It was.

The Albany stands proud on the corner of Donald Street - mattappley pic, Flickr

The Albany stands proud on the corner of Donald Street - Flickr pic by mattappleby

The Albany, owned by Brains Brewery, is a true community pub. And judging by the rowdy Friday night I visited on, is not struggling to bring in the punters. Both the spacious lounge and bar were packed to the rafters of this elegant Edwardian corner pub. The Albany was built in 1895 as a pub hotel and the lounge has retained many of its period features. But this was fit to burst on the night I visited, so I made my way round to the larger bar which faces on to Dalcross Street.

The bar is spacious, with wood flooring, proper pub bench seating, Welsh rugby memorabilia lining the walls, a few TVs showing a range of sports (with one outside in the smoking area) and a well used jukebox and Itbox. But more importantly it had a lively crowd in. You can tell if a pub is serving its community by the diversity of its clientele. The Albany had couples, old codger barmaid botherers, singing sports teams, students, teenagers of dubious age quietly drinking in the corner amazed they’re getting away with it, and everyone else in between. It is how a pub should be; a meeting place for all in the area to come and have a good time.

For my first of the evening I went for a pint of Brains Dark(3.5%). I had been recommended Dark by a reader of Cardiff Drinks and was not left disappointed. At £2.45 it was already on to a winner, but when I went in for the obligatory ‘at bar sip’ I got a surprise. In the pint it looks a dark and intense beer, but on the taste it was surprisingly light. As a dark mild it delivers all the bitterness you want from a winter pint but keeps it smooth and exceptionally drinkable. This may seem like heresy to lovers of stout, but I would take a pint of Brains Dark over a Guinness any day.

Nice window - Flickr pic by Walt Jabsco

Nice window - Flickr pic by Walt Jabsco

On my second visit to the bar I kept with the Brains but opted for a pint of one of their seasonal ales, Merlin’s Oak(4.3%) at £2.70. I should at this point mention the brilliant deal The Albany offers designated drivers, another example of its community credentials. For those foregoing the pleasures of the pint in order to drive home, they can get free refills of coke and lemonade all night long. Now that is a deal.

Back to Merlin’s Oak. This is a beautifully smooth autumnal ale with a dark amber hue and nutty notes which I could have stayed on all night if I wasn’t such a conscientious beer taster for you, the reader. The nutty notes aren’t just in the flavour of the pint; the ale’s pump clip also comes with a little quote from Welsh folklore: “When Merlin’s tree should tumble down then shall fall Carmarthen Town”.

Carmathen is said to be the birth place of the mythical wizard Merlin. The town’s Welsh name Caerfyrddin coming from Myrddin, the Welsh name for Merlin, and Caer for fort, named after the Roman encampment there.

Merlin is said to have made the quoted prophecy regarding an old oak tree in the town centre. When said tree died in 1856 the prophecy appeared to come true as the following winter Carmathen suffered their worst floods for years. But there is also a story that a local trader deliberately poisoned the tree for his own benefit as it was blocking access to his shop.

On my third trip to the bar I spied a great little deal for the curious of taste and short of funds – a taster rack of three ales for £2.55. In order to make a clean sweep of the pints on tap I took an SA Gold (4.3%), SA Bitter (3.7%) and Dragonhead(4%).

The Albany Bar's bar - Flickr piv by Welsh Icons (Dom)

The Albany Bar's bar - Flickr pic by Welsh Icons (Dom)

Dragonhead is a stout produced by The Orkney Brewery on the Scottish island of the same name. It delivers everything you want from a good stout, a deep rich colour, a proud head, and dark intense bitterness. The Scots can definitely compete with their cousins across the Irish Sea when it comes to producing a hearty stout. The two Brains staples that made up the rest of the taster rack delivered their usual smooth beery goodness. I’d like to see more taster racks in pubs. Wetherspoon’s have always led the way on this but it would be great to see it spread beyond the chain establishments.

The Albany is clearly a great pub. But don’t just take my word for it. CAMRA Cardiff named it Pub of the Year in 2005 and 2006 and it was listed in the Good Beer Guide 2006. You can’t argue with the facts.

Mine’s a pint.


Drinks Delivery Services in Cardiff

You’ve planned everything. The punch bowl is full. The beer fridge is groaning. The music playlist is set. A million people have replied to your Facebook invite saying they’re coming (80 will actually show). That guy is going to show up who always gets naked. This will be a great house party.

Cardiff delivery companies have been keeping parties refreshed since 1670 (maybe)

Cardiff delivery companies have been keeping parties refreshed since 1670 (maybe)

That is until the house begins to run dry. Everyone is drinking like fish, and the punch has gone through its fifth incarnation – the one with cranberry juice, white wine and gin was daring but not great. What do you do?

This is normally where you, the host, have to make a sprint to the local off licence and get supplies. This can take a lot longer than you think. By the time you get back, that bloke who always gets naked has got naked, and the party, without anything left to drink except the Fairy Liquid, has wound down and gone to a bar.

If your house party is heading for a drought, there are people you can call (or interweb). No, not the Ghostbusters, the drinks delivery companies of Cardiff – beerrunner.com, boozersdelivery.com, theafterpartydelivery.co.uk and partyoncardiff.com

After a quick phone call, or a few clicks of a mouse, they can be at your door within 20 minutes.

They all have a pretty good selection of spirits, as well as your standard lager and ciders. I’m afraid there is nothing for the ale enthusiast, but really, who drinks ale at a house party? They all have a good selection, but their prices do vary.

After conducting a fairly thorough price comparison, BoozersDelivery is consistently the lowest priced of the four Cardiff drinks delivery companies. But all have had good reviews on internet sites. patrice21 on qype.co.uk gave PartyOnCardiff  five stars, saying, “Great service. Friendly on the phone. Arrived very quickly with everything I wanted! Alcohol is surprisingly cheap.”

Dean, on google reviews, had only good words and five stars for the service he got from BoozersDelivery. “Fast & efficient. My delivery at 2am last night was here 25 minutes after I placed the order. Very happy with the service. I’ll be calling these guys again!”

So if you’re ever nearing a house party drought, you know who to call. Mine’s a pint.


An alcoholic ginger beer that finally tastes like ginger beer!

Stone’s Ginger Joe puts the ‘beer’ into ginger beer. It is an alcoholic ginger beer that tastes like the real thing. If this had been around earlier then The Famous Five would have had lashings of the stuff and probably some more exciting adventures – Five Go Happy Slapping perhaps?

Stone's Ginger Joe

The tache tastic Ginger Joe (photo by Nathan Chantrell on Flickr)

The Ginger Joe name is inspired by ‘Ginger’ Joseph Stone, rusty moustachioed London greengrocer and founder of the Stone’s drinks company back in 1740. It should come as no surprise that Stone’s have managed to make ginger beer alcoholic whilst retaining the full flavour of the original drink. They are alcoholic ginger experts who have been producing their world-famous ginger wine for over 250 years. The new drink contains pure ground ginger and Stone’s Ginger Wine, and the combination is beautiful.

By coming out with Ginger Joe, Stone’s have stepped into the ring with Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. It was Crabbie’s that kicked off the recent craze for boozy ginger beer back in 2009. The UK alcoholic ginger category is currently worth £21.8 million and the market is getting increasingly crowded.

But the great advantage Stone’s has over its competitor is that it actually tastes like ginger beer. Where Crabbie’s lost the full fiery flavour of the root based beverage in the brewing process, Stone’s has kept it and hidden the booziness. For the ginger beer enthusiast wanting a hangover in the morning (why have they made ginger beer alcoholic?) then this is the tipple for you.

But is it just me that wonders why ginger beer has gone alcoholic? Will we see alcoholic lemonade next? Does every drink we enjoy the taste of have to have an alcoholic partner we can sup on when we’re on a night out?

I’m not so sure. What I am sure of is this. You’ll soon be seeing gangs of loitering youths swapping their three litres of white cider for some proper tasting, alcoholic, ginger beer. Mine’s a pint.