Penderyn Portwood

Wales, for those of you who haven’t visited, is much like Scotland in many regards, except that Welsh castles are better, and the Welsh are generally better at rugby. (Rugby, for our American readers, is similar to American Football, except that it’s different and better in every respect.)

But yes, lots of similarities. Both are prettier than England, and in both countries the pretty bits are in the North, where no-one lives. They both have their own languages on road signs, and very few people who can actually translate them. Neither of them play cricket, which is very sensible of them, and both of them think that the English are largely awful. That’s pretty sensible too.

Oh, and they both make whisky. Though in Wales it’s called wysgi, and they only have two distilleries. And since Dà Mhìle pop out about a barrel’s worth of wysgi a year, the only Welsh wysgi you’ve probably heard of is Penderyn.

Penderyn’s been happily firing out aqua vitae since the start of the millennium. They beat the English Whisky Co to the punch, as it happens, meaning England was the last country in the UK to jump on the bandwagon. (We’ve made up for it since through some aggressive over-marketing, as is our wont.)

These days Penderyn – or at least their flagship Madeira finish – can be found relatively easily in UK supermarkets. They changed their branding recently to make it edgier and uglier, but the whisky (I can no longer be bothered with wysgi) has remained, to the best of my knowledge, as it was.

The key Penderyn feature is their still, which is something of a hybrid. It’s along the lines of a pot, but with a column attached, except that it differs somehow from the Lomond still, which is along the lines of a pot, but with a column attached. Their website has more details if you fancy being bamboozled further. The important thing is that it zonks up the booze to an exceptionally hefty 90+%. Which makes their spirit very light indeed. They’ve also installed two more conventional stills, but I’m not sure the whisky from those is ready yet.

Anyhow, the Penderyn du jour is their Portwood, which was matured in ex-bourbon casks and then finished in – gadzooks! – ex-Port. Bottled at 46% ABV and yours for about £55.

Penderyn Portwood – review

Colour: Light tawny, with the vaguest pinkish hue.

On the nose: Delicate, though the aromas express themselves nicely. Cherries and strawberries. Strawberry compote, in fact, and Victoria sponge. Plum skins and red grapes. Candied orange peel. A little clear honey and flapjack. It’s very light, but decently nuanced.

In the mouth: Prickly delivery. Still very light, but also ever so slightly spirit. Malt expresses itself a little more here. Digestive biscuits. Honey and vanilla too. Fruit has receded slightly, but there’s red apple and cranberry jam. It’s simple stuff.


Nice nose, but it’s a little bit light overall. A little bit too subtle really. Certainly if you’re going to charge upwards of fifty notes. I personally prefer their Madeira Finish, which I can get from Sainsbury’s for £30. And I definitely prefer their Rich Oak, even at £70 a bottle.

I’m still very excited to taste the stuff from their pot stills, mind you.

Score: 5/10

Lead image kindly provided by The Whisky Exchange

Adam Wells

In addition to my weekly-ish articles on Malt I write about whisky for Distilled and cider for Graftwood and Full Juice Magazines. Somewhere amidst all that I've also done the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. I share my home with several hundred bottles, one geophysicist and a small fluffy whirlwind called Nutmeg. For miscellaneous drinks banality, find me on twitter at

  1. Alex says:

    5/10? I think you’re doing it a disservice. The Medeira finish is a quality product and we’re spoilt that we can get it at such good value but the Portwood is on another level.

    I’d thoroughly recommend it. Certainly not a 5/10.

    1. Adam Wells says:

      Hi Alex

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and bringing me back to this post, which I had all but forgotten about!

      Of course you’re entitled to your own opinion and rating, and if you happen to love the Penderyn Portwood then great – all the more for you.

      But although it’s been some time since I wrote this review, I’d still stand by the score. In the context of the whiskies I’ve reviewed on this site and the several thousand tasted outside of this, I’d say based on quality and value for money that this sits in the bracket of “Average. Not bad.” Which, if you look at our scoring bands, is how we would define a 5/10 on Malt. There’s nothing I found ‘unpleasant’ about it, by any means, but compared to whiskies I’ve scored higher it was just a little lacking in balance, length, intensity and/or complexity. In overall character I suppose.

      That aside, thanks again for reminding me that it’s been some months since I last had anything from Penderyn, and that I ought probably to dip back into their range again.

      Best wishes

      Adam W.

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