Before we delve into Penderyn distillery, let’s just clarify a few things. There are two “Brecon” gins that are made by Penderyn. One is called Brecon Special Reserve Gin, the other Brecon Botanicals Gin (No, not a typo – Botanicals with an “S”. Yep) . They are two separate beasts and both deserving of equal attention if you can find them.
Both are made to their own specific recipe and then shipped to Wales, where they are then blended with Penderyn malted barley spirit and diluted down to 40% ABV using the water source under their distillery.
Brecon Special Reserve to taste…
Launched in 2001, as a way of helping with cash flow while their whisky stock matured, Brecon Special Reserve Gin is a crisp and elegant gin with 10 botanicals in the mix. The botanical lineup may seem relatively traditional (Juniper, Coriander Seeds, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, Angelica, Orris Root, Liquorice, Nutmeg, Cassia Bark, Cinnamon), but there is a richness in flavour and a citrus hit that balances out the spices and makes it stand out. Undoubtedly, juniper and coriander are prevalent along with hints of spicy cinnamon, which creates a delectable gin that deserves to be sought out.
Brecon Special Reserve Gin scooped a gold ‘best in class’ award from the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2013 and the gin has also received high praise form other competitions too. We called the distillery for further information which, it must be said, varies wildly depending on who you speak to. With some claiming they add a daffodil concentrate to the gin and others saying it started in 2007 etc., who knows what the exact details are? This is one of the rare times we decided to stop asking questions because, while the team may vary from person to person, the gin on the other hand remains consistent at each batch and stands up to inspection.
Brecon Botanicals Gin to taste…
This has 8 botanicals and a higher ABV of 43%, forming the two key points that set it apart from its sister gin. It wasn’t initially widely available in the UK because it was intended as a release for export and aimed at the Spanish market, but the call for it won out and it can now be found at most supermarkets. The flavour of the Botanicals Gin is quite different to their Special Reserve, this time with more dried herbs, earthier notes, spices and a little more pronounced cassia bark. It tastes fantastic and for those of us who like gins that lean towards the Plymouth end of the spectrum – it doesn’t disappoint.
The distillery itself sounds like a destination venue if ever there has been one. Small in scale but perfectly formed, it sits above a cavernous aquifer that contains rock formations laid down around 340 million years ago. In the heart of The Brecon Beacons National Park, which spans 519 square miles and contains some of the most spectacular, pristine and diverse landscapes in Europe. (The Beacons themselves are a mountain range of outstanding natural beauty and home to Pen-y-Fan, the highest old red sandstone summit in Britain).
If you felt like a scenic gin tour, you know where to go! That said, it also highlights the biggest stain on the Brecon Gin story: They don’t actually make gin there. This is where they make whisky and only bottle the gin.
Despite having pedigree, provenance and one of the most talented master distillers in the business (in Gillian Macdonald) they delegate the key tasks, rather than distil it themselves. Maybe it was because they were too busy making whisky when it was launched, maybe it is due to the type of stills they have or perhaps for other reasons. It’s a shame and while their communications present a lovely story of a distiller scooping awards and a team busy crafting the gin – don’t dig too deep or it unravels quite fast. In a more and more crowded category, authenticity is key and, while they seem to go the whole 9 yards with their whisky, they fall somewhat short with Brecon Gin – even if the product itself is of impeccable quality.
For more information about Brecon Gin, visit their website: www.welsh-whisky.co.uk
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