A World of Welsh Whisky: Swansea Fringe Festival

By Heather Dimmer

As part of the Swansea Fringe weekend, I attended a whisky tasting session at the Tech Hub in the Urban Village, just off the High Street. Having booked it months earlier and not thought much of it since, I had no specific expectations and was pleasantly surprised to find a wonderfully aesthetic set up whilst waiting for the group to arrive.

The sessions starts with the host, Adam, giving us a quick catch up on what exactly whisky is – it’s basically a distilled strong beer; a brewer’s beer. After being brewed and distilled it is then aged in casks that will have been used for making other drinks previously, and the cask will dictate a large amount of the taste and mouthfeel of the whiskey.

As this was a session on Welsh whiskey, the four we tried were from Penderyn. My favourite was their Sherrywood with a wonderful caramel texture that almost tasted of Christmas. Penderyn whiskey is distilled in a rather unique still called the Faraday still, which allows them to distill an “extremely clean ‘flavourful’ spirit” with just a single still. This process  is a very rare occurrence due to only a few distilleries using this type of still in modern times.

As well as the Sherrywood we tried their Bryn Terfel, a spicy whisky in a fabulous red velvet bottle. This was followed by their Portwood, a whisky with a dual-flavour of dried fruits and chocolate; and their Rich Oak, a whisky aged in casks specifically selected by their late Master Distiller Dr. Jim Swan. This one is released in batches of 2248 bottles, and retailing at £85 a bottle and 50 ABV, it packs a hell of a punch. Nonetheless, once you get over the initial hit of it, notes of fruit and caramel emerge making for a delicious drink.

Around the tables were glasses of fresh water and pipettes for adding a few drops of water to the drinks. Seems counterintuitive to begin with to be sure, but this actually releases volatiles in the whisky and will change and enhance the flavours. The biggest change I noticed was in the Portwood, which seemed to go from two separate flavours to a combined, wonderful blend of chocolate and fruit.. Also, strangely, when adding water to the Rich Oak, it tasted stronger but was far smoother and easier to drink.

Adam himself is part of a yet unnamed group in Swansea that does whisky tasting every month or so, and having thoroughly enjoyed the session I put down my email to hopefully join. I’m far from a whisky connoisseur and was really surprised to be able to taste the differences, and can’t wait to do it again!

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