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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Glenfarclas, Speyside, Scotland

Describe Glenfarclas in two words?  Old school.  Putting aside the slightly annoying and confusing matter that this is yet another famous Speyside distillery with a Grant family prominent in its history (a different Grant from Glenfiddich and Balvenie and also not the same Grant as Glen Grant) and overlooking the slightly 1960's state school look and feel of the place, Glenfarclas produces high quality Speyside whiskies with a heavy sherry influence.

The visitor's center does not have any café and the $5 tour is the usual fare with the interesting highlight that you will see the tallest stills in Speyside.  They also store and age all their whisky on site which many of the "corporate" distilleries don't do for rather dull reasons like they want to rent cheaper warehouse space in a more central location or for "risk management" (ie in case the distillery burns down they don't lose all the stock).    After walking around the site you leave with a strong feeling that this is still very much an independent family run business, that they are proud of what they do and they are not about to change anything any time soon.  Good for them.

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Penderyn, Wales

Penderyn, Wales Interestingly this welsh whisky, or wysgi in welsh, would barely scrape under the bar as a "whisky" in Scotland.  It certainly wouldn't be considered single malt for several reasons I will discuss later.  I should also disclose some bias for Wales at this point, as I graduated from the University of Wales and lived in Cardiff for four years.

The  Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) rules and regulations rightly protect the process and traditions of the industry, but it doesn't means that other methods and technology can't product a whisky (and this is whisky) of exceptional taste and quality.  In fact find it slightly ironic that the industry that was in many ways born from developing the new ideas for manufacturing whisky (the Coffey still, grain whisky and blended whisky) is so entrenched in its thinking today about what defines Scotch whisky, and inversely the sticking to old ways and traditions was one contributing factors of several that nearly completely killed the Irish industry.  Remember that those that don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

That said Welsh whisky is not about to take over the world, but this is very good stuff.  The distillery in the village of Penderyn, near Brecon is modern and compact.  One reason for this compactness is that the wash is made in Cardiff at the Brain's Brewery and brought to the distillery in tanker trucks.  That in itself would exclude Penderyn from the ranks of "single malt" if it were located in Scotland.  The tour is also compact, in fact it consists of two rooms.  One room houses a history of welsh distilling and the more recent history of the distillery.  The second room is basically the tasting room and has a glass wall.  Behind the wall is the unique still Penderyn use to distill the Brain's wash into an 86 - 92% ABV spirit and a small bottling line.  

The Penderyn still is a combination of a pot still and a column still and this would again probably prevent this being considered single malt whisky, were it in Scotland, as it is not a traditional pot still.  The spirit is diluted with water drawn from a well below the distillery and put into bourbon casks, matured offsite, and then finished in Madeira casks before being bottled on site.  They also do a peated version of Penderyn which is matured in scotch casks that have previously held peated scotch and a sherry cask finished version.

After the tour they pour samples from their range of whiskies and also they offer a cream blend called Merlyn.  We also got to smell and taste the new make spirit.  There is the ubiquitous whisky shop as well.  This is an interesting distillery that makes a great product, and is well worth a visit.

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