OUR UNIQUE STILL
‘A still like no other…’
Our whisky still is a single copper-pot which produces a flavourful spirit of extraordinary strength and purity and was designed by Dr David Faraday, descendent of the ground-breaking Victorian scientist, Michael Faraday. As of 2013 we have a pair of these stills.
Whilst most Scottish and Irish distilleries use a conventional two or three-pot still system, the technology developed at Penderyn allows an extremely clean ‘flavourful’ spirit to be produced from a single still.
However, in 2014 we commissioned a pair of Scottish-style ‘lantern’ stills which allow us to experiment with new whiskies.
Each morning our unique copper-pot still is charged with our own malted barley wash. As the steam heats the liquid it starts to bubble and the vapour rises into a copper column above the still. The column has a number of perforated plates and the vapour condenses on the first plate before returning to the still.
As the process continues, the vapour reaches the second plate… and so on, before evaporating and falling back to the still; each step leaving the spirit smoother, softer and more refined than before. Eventually the spirit is drawn from the seventh plate on the second column and piped into our glass spirit safe (see pic above) where it lands, literally drop by drop, over the course of the day.
This magical process not only imbues our raw spirit with great complexity, depth and finesse, but also removes many of the undesirable chemical compounds – something that a conventional pot still system cannot achieve. Arriving at the spirit safe at an industry high of 92% abv, our spirit is virtually free from these chemical compounds and this becomes crucial during cask ageing.
Whisky is aged in charred oak barrels primarily to remove undesirable chemical compounds as the charcoal created as oak barrels are burned or charred prior to filling acts as a filter. As these chemical compounds are generally absent from our spirit in the first place, we use barrels primarily to build complexity, flavour and depth.
All the elements of the distillation process are closely controlled by our distilling team, enabling the consistent production of high quality spirit. Even slight variations in climatic conditions will produce subtle changes of character in the finished product. Unusually amongst malt whisky producers, all our bottlings are dated and connoisseurs will be able to pick up the slight nuances in flavour from month to month.
WOOD AND WATER
‘Fresh mountain water and the finest bourbon casks…’
The individual characteristics of malt whisky are influenced by a number of different factors. These include the variety and quality of the malted barley used, the water source and the design and operation of the still. However, much of the flavour – and the final colour – depends on the type of wooden barrels used for maturation.
The Penderyn house-style derives from the use of two types of casks. For the initial maturation we use the finest hand-selected bourbon barrels and to finish the whisky we transfer to Portuguese barriques that have previously nurtured a rich Madeira wine. Each cask is closely watched and regularly ‘nosed’ until the wood has imparted its full flavour and the whisky has reached perfection.
It is a moment that can only be judged by the exquisite precision of the human senses, and our two distillers, Laura and Aista, are supremely skilled in this area. We source the finest barrels from the best Tennessee and Kentucky distilleries. A high proportion begin life at Buffalo Trace, which is widely recognised as one of the finest bourbons in the world. We also use barrels from Evan Williams, which are of similar quality. Evan Williams came from west Wales and began distilling in 1783 and so is regarded as one of the founders of the American Bourbon industry.
We have a special relationship with one of the finest cooperages which supplies only the very best Madeira houses. Madeira is a sweet, complex wine of great rarity produced only on the island of the same name. It is capable of ageing for over 100 years. Slowly our spirit will leach the Madeira from the oak, increasingly gaining in subtlety and complexity.
Occasionally we will use a different wood for different expressions of Penderyn, but even our delicate peated edition (made using Scottish peated casks) retains the character of the spirit. We also use Port wood barrels from Portugal and dry Oloroso Sherry casks from Spain to finish our whisky.
Penderyn Distillery is located in the Brecon Beacons National Park and our water is drawn from our own pure source in the carboniferous limestone deep below the distillery. This water is used in the distilling and blending process and is a key ingredient in our malt whisky. The distillery sits above a cavernous aquifer that contains rock formations laid down around 340 million years ago.
This aquifer holds water that filters down through the overlying basal grit into the limestone. The whole formation is described as thick-bedded and of fine to course-grained material. It was originally deposited in a shallow marine environment.
Ancient weathered surfaces exist in parts of the formation, covered with thin, primordial soil in places where the rock was briefly higher than sea level before being submerged again.
Above ground during the Ice Age, ice floes covering Northern Europe had reached the latitude at which Penderyn Distillery lies c. 2.6 million years ago. On their retreating back to the Arctic, today’s landscape began to emerge.
Penderyn also lies within the bounds of the Fforest Fawr National Geopark. There are only 100 Geoparks across the globe and they are administered by UNESCO as areas which exhibit ‘geological heritage of great significance.’