Croydon Whisky Festival 2022, Part 2/2

Following on from Part 1, we jump from France to Wales.

Established in 2000, Penderyn Distillery distills using two pots and two Faraday stills. Developed by David Faraday [descendant of Michael Faraday], ‘the stills differ from the Scottish and Irish procedures, in that the whole process from wash to new make takes place in a single still‘ [MWYB]. Further reading: wipo / website

Penderyn Madeira [2022] Ob. 46% WB81.70[160]

  • N,T,F: Starting with Penderyn’s flagship model, today in 2022 I find this youthful, fresh, and with grain-like/Euro=Glen [Elgin] vibes. The madeira influence is a bit muddled at the tail end.
  • C: I’m missing something of Penderyn’s early madeira cask-matured/finished releases – aka ‘classic’ aka ‘original’ [aka ‘Legend’] – though post-Jim Swan, the distillery’s consistency of quality remains firm.

Scores 80 points

Penderyn Portwood [2022] Ob. 46% WB84.35[45] [WF]70

  • C: It’s sweet, so popular, the sweetness kinda suiting the spirit. There is a feeling of ‘painting by numbers’.

Scores 79 points

Penderyn Rich Oak [2022] Ob. 46% WB82.08[40] [WF]85~86]

  • C: ‘Rich Oak’,… as opposed to poor oak? I rather liked this back in 2016 [score: 82], offering the headline ‘a fun one’. Today, this is the best of the three. Same score too, some six years later.

Scores 82 points

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Having gone round the map somewhat, we finally find ourselves in Scotland, still very much the home of whisky. Lowlands first.

Bladnoch [2018]

Bladnoch Vinaya [2022] Ob. 46.7% WB82.95[76] WF85

You may remember when Bladnoch came out fighting in 2017 with mature stock from the Raymond Armstrong era – namely, a 15yo and a 27yo, for example [WLP]. In 2022, we see before us, a no-age-statement range from the new regime. I remain optimistic.

  • C: Crisp, even earthy nose, followed by a softer journey – the strength spot on. After an ‘organic’ transition into the finish, we’ve a textural fluffy cocoa-like conclusion – the oak compliant. For any occasion, it’s one you could drink all day. Good stuff, Bladnoch.

Scores 85 points

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Bladnoch Alinta [2022] Ob. 47% WB86.11[11]

  • C: This peated offering from Bladnoch is nice enough though it doesn’t do a great deal – in a similar ballpark to AnCnoc’s Rascan [WB], perhaps. It has no chance of competing with its neighbour on the day, Port Charlotte.

Scores 82 points

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Bruichladdich Distillery

[Bruichladdich] Port Charlotte 2013/2021 08yo Ob. Islay Barley 50% WB86.13[57] WF87

[More chatting equals less note-taking].

  • C: Solid as ever. Ye old faithful. Benchmark stuff.

Scores 87 points

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[Bruichladdich] Port Charlotte 2011/2021 08~09yo Ob. PAC:01 56.1% WB87.95[308] WF87

  • C: Essence of spirit, despite all that clever [red wine] cask management. A good result overall and a solid example of Bordeaux over single malt.

Scores 86 points

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[Bruichladdich] Octomore 10.3 2013/2019 06yo Ob. [24000 bts] 61.3% WB87.44[178]

  • C: A very large [small] batch of perfectly decent straight ahead essence of barley juice. Decidedly unmoving, however, [almost] regardless of the £160 price tag.

Scores 85 points

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[Bruichladdich] Octomore 12.1 05yo [2021] Ob. ‘The Impossible Equation’ 59.9% WB86.67[135] WF90

  • C: A clear step up from the 10.3, this one is deliciously barley-faithful once again, with more depth, texture, and intent! The problem again is, I’m not sure I’d pay £80 for it, let alone £160. For me, it has to be Port Charlotte’s Islay Barley [for £65] all day long. Market forces aside, it’s equally quality gear.

Scores 87 points

It’s good to have one of the great distilleries around, as a reminder of why they are – and remain – the greats. Having Bruichladdich at this festival is a firm reminder of the quality bar set by the ‘established’.

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Saving the best till last [?], I get to re-review four Artful Dodger bottlings I briefly tried at the Whisky Show in October 2021 [WLP]. Nearly all have since been released in the last week or so.

Cameronbridge 1984/2022 35yo Artful Dodger bourbon barrel #27679 52.2% [500ml] WLP184

I think the abv of 52.2% is correct. I find these particular labels tricky to read and my camera won’t always collect all the label info from one front-on shot, I’ve since found out.

  • C: A decent example of a grain that has passed those awkward growing up decades though it still remains a touch sour and fresh. Distillery character-wise, bravo to [TBWCs] Claire who spots it from a fizziness that returns to the front of the palate.

Scores 84 points

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Dufftown 2008/2022 13yo Artful Dodger Bourbon cask #700203 57.6% [500ml] WB0 AD

  • N: An instant pleaser with all the dry floral honeys, I cannot not think of Wemyss 28yo Untold Riches [WLP290] despite the 15 year age gap. 
  • T: Presented at a desirable strength [neat], the illusion of greater age along the lines of more floral honey action, continues,…
  • F: ,… though some underlying butyric bourbon maturation loses it some marks on the home straight.
  • C: Until the opening of Roseisle, Dufftown was Diageo’s largest distillery. What little comes out of Dufftown as single malt under the distillery name – and not part of the Singleton family [alongside Glendullan and Glen Ord] – is generally very decent. This is no exception. Overall, it’s a comfort blanket malt with an illusion of age beyond its 13 years. Recommended.

Scores 87 points

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[Isle of] Jura 1990/2022 30yo Artful Dodger cask #9005283 57.6% [500ml] WB0 AD

  • N: With a gentle [farmy] refill sprightliness, the evolving nose has a great deal to impart. Three of us Swaggers, unwittingly playing around with different water ratios with the same whisky in our glasses, come together to realise that we have [created] three rather different yet equally fantastic whiskies.
  • T: With a clear maturity over the far younger [honeyed-floral bourbon-y] Dufftown, you could imagine bringing the two together for a ‘the best of both worlds’ scenario. 
  • F: A gentile honest hummer with a subtle freshness, akin to [as if you’d been] sucking on a mint 40 minutes beforehand.
  • C: With its aged refill joys – the distillery irrelevant – this puts the Dufftown in perspective [and vice versa]. A point or two more today after my first rushed contact [WLP188]. Just give it time!

Scores 90 points

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Bunnahabhain 2013/2022 08yo Artful Dodger Vino de Color cask #900710 57.6% [500ml] WB91[1] WLP183 AD

It’s this bonkers Vino de Color Bunnahabhain again. Did they forget to empty the cask? This particular cask was then used to finish CYWL’s ‘On a Saw Mill’ [WLP88], and is now being used to finish something else [unannounced]. Better to think of this as a 40yo PX sherry, finished in a whisky cask. Next time I try it, I’m going to appreciate it on that level. [Not scored].

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There’s just time for one more. Finding myself at the Compass Box stand, they pour me this:

Compass Box No Name #3 [2021] Ob. [10794 bts] 48.9% WB87.23[101]

  • C: A lovely one to finish this fab festival on. The blend of Bowmore, Laphroaig, Clynelish, and Mortlach, it smells & tastes as well as it reads. The Laphroaig drives and everything else slots right in behind it. Very decent.

Scores 87 points

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CROYDON: FINAL THOUGHTS

It was refreshing to attend a whisky festival with a total absence of the ‘Big Four’: Diageo / Edrington / Grants / Pernod Ricard. Croydon represented, instead, players that form part of a new contemporary landscape, distilleries such as Spirit of Birmingham, East London Liquor Company, Oxford Artisan Distillery, and Nc’cean, for example, experimenting not only with casks, but heritage grains, mixed mash bills, yeast,… [terroir]. Exciting times [and results], ahead. Many of the established [Scottish] distilleries may do well to respond in a similar vein.

On the flip-side, after rather a lot of young [weird/freaky/gin-sky] whisky, it was good to have Bruichladdich there as a reminder of the quality bar set by the long-established, a benchmark that many up-and-coming distilleries may do well to keep in their sights in the intervening years of their route to longer-term establishment. Other worthy mentions include Bladnoch, Armorik, and Artful Dodger with ‘Best Whisky in Show’.

Held in a superb ‘funky’ venue with great organisation and enthusiastic knowledgable staff, Croydon presented a diverse bijou selection of world whiskies and with just the right number of peeps-to-exhibitors ratio. Time-wise, five hours was just right for a festival of this size. The midday start was welcomed too. Some start at 11.

With a great vibe, Croydon attracted a younger more female-centric crowd, enticing curious beginners to the category whilst offering plenty for the already converted. Perhaps the event coinciding with Bristol wasn’t a problem at all.

Food & drink was available, there were plenty of water stations [zero plastic bottles], numerous spittoons, and plenty of places to sit and contemplate. My only gripe, unless I missed it, was the absence of a cloakroom. Otherwise, I can’t fault it. We could be looking back in a few years time [in our coats and scarves] and commenting on Croydon Whisky Festival as being one of the best.

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With thanks to everyone involved at Croydon Whisky Festival. I shall be looking forward to its return in 2023. I’d like to see it continue as is – bespoke, niche, experimental – and with the addition of, say, a few more independent bottlers [TBWC, North Star Spirits, Scotch Universe,…] to reflect the under-the-radar ‘Scotch Guard’ [Glenburgie, Aberfeldy, Glenlossie, Glendullan….] and represent more obscure world distilleries.

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END

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