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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Anchorage Distillery, Alaska, USA

There have been much published on the emergence of micro distilleries in the USA, the UK and indeed all over the world. Much of that has been positive but there is it appears one major drawback to a micro distillery that to my knowledge has gone unsaid. The truth is they don’t always make very long or interesting tours. A recent visit to this site in an industrial park on outskirts of Anchorage was a perfect example of that. After arriving at the very cosy bar I was taken to see the distillery. Ten minutes later I was back in the bar. A micro tour of a micro distillery? That said the cocktails, vodka, gin and white whisky samples flowed freely (though not in commercial sense, I had to pay) and I enjoyed my visit very much.  I was fortunate to be their only customer that chilly afternoon in February so I had full attention of their excellent host.  The finale was a ghost pepper vodka that is the oral equivalent of taking your palate to the woodshed and beating the crap out of it with a stick!  I left warm and content (with a slighty numb tongue) and a bag full of goodies from a rather well stocked shop, at least that is my recollection after 6 or 7 drink samples. I also took a 5cl sample of their Arctic Ice Moonshine Whiskey (http://www.somanywhiskies.com/reviews/item/814-arctic-ice-moonshine-whiskey) as the only aged whisky this site has produced to date is some rye that is still in cask but that means I have a reason to go back as well.



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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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