In the lead up to the most important annual tournament in Wales, SWWIG hosted the first two rounds of their 6 Nations Whisky tasting – click on to see who won!
We’re now halfway through the season of our Six Nations tasting, hosting two sessions in both Newport and Cardiff. The first on the 28th January was held at the Lamb in Newport, then the following week at Barocco in Cardiff. Due to the amount of tickets on sale (72!), we decided to change the whiskies after the first two sessions. So this now marks the end of the first round.
The theme of the evening is to sample a whisky from each of the competing nation’s whiskies – France, England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and of course Wales! Instead of sampling each whisky individually, we competed three double tasting to compare the two. These were a younger lighter editions from Penderyn and Puni, a slightly more developed whisky from Jameson and Armorik, then finishing to more peaty expressions from Famous Grouse (who sponsor Scottish Rugby) and finishing on English Whisky.
What whiskies did we choose?
Penderyn Sherrywood vs Puni Alba
Where else could we start but in our home nation? As our only distillery,the weight of representingting the nation falls to one company – Penderyn. As usual we tried to go for something a little different, so we left the Madeira finish behind and opted for the Sherrywood. As expected this dram went down very well at both sessions, but it’s youth and slightly harsh nose wasn’t to everyone’s liking. Pleasant yes, but just a little too light for the welsh supporters I think!
As always with the Puni I have to begin by stating that this is just a malt spirit at the moment, as at only 24 months, it’s still too young to be called whisky until it’s 3rd birthday. Last year on, an earlier release this did very well, but unfortunately the second release of this spirit really isn’t as good as before. While the younger version from last year had a ‘nice’ youth-like tone – green apples, menthol with some nice raw heat, it seems the second year has brought out a lot of wood, but not enough age to mellow it out. Another couple more years I think this spirit will do really well internationally, but as for this edition, unfortunately it couldn’t compete with the home nation.
With over 200 years of history, the Jameson was always going to do well. A classic smooth irish pot still whisky finds fan anywhere in the world and both nights were no exception. Very easy to drink, a nice long finish and something a little exclusive (this can only be brought at the distillery), this was always going to be a crowd pleaser. Only downside – some didn’t feel the £50 was worth the price. Twice the price of the Special edition, but twice as good? – we didn’t think so.
This was the first time many people had tried the a French whisky, and often the first time they were aware of the nation’s huge appetite for the beverage – it’s not just all wine in France! The Armorik Classic is just that – I truly classic whisky. Ex-Bourbon and slightly sherried, it has a wonderful balance, good mouthfeel and finish and at 46% a nice warmth. I think if anyone asked me to recommend a ‘good’ whisky for someone who hadn’t tried one before, this would now be it. Also, at £36 a bottle, a real bargain! No one disliked this whisky on both evenings and it had some real fans, especially in Barocco where it won the night – well done France!
Famous Grouse Alpha Black vs English Whisky Chapter 16
Famous Grouse AB? What can I say – probably the most embarrassing marketing I’ve seen on a bottle of whisky. I still can’t work out if it’s tongue in cheek or serious with the way it describes being aimed at ‘Alpha Males’! Either way, this whisky was never really popular on both evenings. It describes itself as challenging, but in fact, it’s a light, smokey dram with no finish whatsoever. Undoubtedly Famous Grouse in character, but at £36 a bottle, just not worth the price. Maybe if it had some more depth, or perhaps a stronger bottling? On the plus side, the box is nice.
When I was at the Whisky Show in London, I met with David Fitt the head distiller and explained that I was looking for a whisky from them to represent his country – he recommended this bottle, and what a bottle it is! Awesome peat and sherry, it’s along the lines of an Ardbeg, but still with it’s own character. A lovely warmth and finish, but with a good peat smoke that always goes down well in Wales. Again, I’m a little unsure about the marketing with a tasting notes describing a strange interaction with a former spice girl, but we can let this slip this time. A great dram, but maybe a little pricey at £50 it might struggle to compete with it’s Islay counterparts, but overall an excellent way to end the evening. To prove how good this dram is, this whisky was the favourite at the Newport tasting, which is pretty good going for an English whisky in Wales!
So there we are, a win for England and France in the first round. Join us in a few weeks as we discuss bring on new ‘teams’ to represent their nation in SWWIG’s Six Nations Whisky Tasting