At last month's inaugural Quarter Gill Club tasting, the very first dram came all the way from... Wales.
Now, when people think about Welsh whisky, the name which instantly comes to mind is Penderyn, Wales' first whisky distillery in over a hundred years. Established in 2000, the distillery's first whisky was released later in 2004. There are now, however, five operational distilleries in Wales producing spirit to mature as single malt whisky: Penderyn, Dà Mhìle, Coles, In The Welsh Wind and, of course, Aber Falls.
Aber Falls Distillery is situated next to the village of Abergwyngregyn (hence why it was the first whisky of the night. There was no way anybody was going to attempt to say that after a few drams in) near the famous waterfall whose name the distillery is named after. The distillery is part of the Halewood group who also own, amongst numerous other brands within its spirits portfolio, the Bonnington Distillery in Leith, the new home for Crabbie single malt whisky; the Samuel Gelston's Irish whiskey brand; Bankhall Distillery just outside Blackpool (!!) making a bourbon style spirit.
The inaugural release from Aber Falls Distillery was aged for three and a half years in American Virgin Oak, Sherry and Orange Wine casks. This first release was limited to 2000 bottles and retailed for the very decent and respectable price of £45. It's unlikely that you'll find any bottles left on retailers' shelves so expect to pay upwards of £150 on the secondary market. Such is the way of the whisky world.
By the way, one of the interesting points I noted about Aber Falls Distillery is that it has a stainless steel condenser as well as a copper one. If this were Scotland, a stainless steel condenser wouldn't be allowed due to SWA regulations. However, the production of Welsh whisky doesn't have such restrictions. As a result, it's claimed that the stainless steel condenser adds more congeners to the spirit as stainless steel isn't as effective as copper at removing those heavier elements. Does this come through in the whisky? Well, as I needed to drive to host the tasting, I kept back a small sample to try afterwards. Here are my thoughts:
Nose: initial notes of a damp warehouse followed by the smell of paper notes in a new leather wallet; there's a mix of strawberry laces and tinned clementines followed by dried mango notes; after a while the strawberry notes become a bit jammy and there's a biscuity note in the background; now all I can think of is Empire Biscuits; there's a freshness throughout but the nose is beautifully balanced for such a young whisky.
Palate: chocolate covered HobNobs straight away on the palate here; that strawberry jam note from earlier starts to appear together with Golden Syrup flapjacks; then the whisky takes a bit of a turn as more tropical fruit notes appear - I'm thinking Juicy Fruit chewing gum followed by dried pineapple; there's a hint of fresh ginger and dark chocolate notes appear in the finish.
Overall: simply superb. I genuinely loved this whisky. There's no way I'm prepared to entertain the flippers by paying the secondary market prices but for £45, this was fantastic. The latest release is available to buy on the Aber Falls site for £26 (CLICK HERE although please note that this release is 40% abv). I haven't tried it yet but, at that price, I think I'll take a punt.
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