Welsh Whisky - General Information
The ingredients of this early version of the spirit known universally as "aqua-vitae" or "gwirod" in the Welsh language, are said to have been a mix of barley, yeast and honey, distilled to make a basic raw spirit.
Small commercial distillery at Dale in Pembrokeshire, which opened in 1705.
Owned by the family of Evan Williams, who later emigrated from Wales to the USA and founded the Kentucky Whiskey industry.
In the late 1800s, a malt whisky distillery briefly operated at Frongoch, near Bala in North Wales, under the chairmanship of a Mr. Robert Willis.
The "chapel building mania" in Wales with its associated temperance movement (combined with the unfortunate death of Mr. Willis under the wheels of a horse and cart) conspired to put an end to legal distillation in Wales for more than 100 years.
The Welsh Whisky Company - founded in 1998; the first spirit ran from the stills of the Penderyn Distillery in September of 2000.
The locality is rather beautiful, sitting in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The first whisky was launched on St David’s Day, 1st March 2004. The wash is brought in from S A Brain & Co, a beer brewer.
This date is a key date in Welsh whisky history as it returned to producing whisky after more than 100 years in exile. The first batch of Penderyn Whisky was released on the above date and was sold out almost immediately. It is not a massive distillery to say the least and only produces a small amount of whisky each day.
Penderyn whiskies have won various awards despite their young age (the distillery has been established only 10 years or so ago). They also have a very flavourful gin, a 5-times distilled vodka, and a creme liquer called Merlyn in addition to whiskies.
The standard bottling is matured in 2nd hand Jack Daniels’ whiskey casks and finished in Madeira casks. There have been more recent releases, a Sherry Wood and a peated offering.
In June of 2008 a visitor centre was opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
Excitingly, Penderyn continues to grow - in 2014, an expansion to the distillery was put in motion, with a pair of pot stills, a copper pot still and mashing facilities being commissioned.
Penderyn has taken over the Welsh whisky industry by storm and is one of the most influential Welsh exports with their whisky being sold all around the world in a number of key outlets. The distillery itself is a key employee for the local area and has a team of around 30 dedicated craftsman, staff and professionals all helping in the running of the distillery.
At present there are around 60 shareholders that own the distillery and over the next few years it’s thought that Penderyn whiskies will become even more popular. The company and its products are fiercely independent and the spirit of entrepreneurship within the company is already a model that is being used in course work in colleges and universities.
Their decision was to focus on modern Wales - the bottle that we eventually chose looks more like a wine or vodka bottle than a Scotch.
The naming of the brand caused a fair amount of debate: one of the first suggestions was “Beacon”, which, as you may have guessed, comes from the distillery’s natural surroundings of the Brecon Beacons. As the brand had to live outside Wales they wanted a name that could easily be used as a bar call. Eventually they settled on the name of the distillery’s location, the village of Penderyn.
As Welsh Gold was the unifying theme of the Penderyn brand, they created an “AC” hallmark, standing for Aur Cymru – “Welsh Gold” in the Welsh language.
Finally, the bottle design was capped off with a hand drawn flash of gold, symbolic both of the whisky’s rarity (less is produced in a year at Penderyn than in a day at some larger distilleries) and desirability.
- 2 single pot copper stills – designed by Dr David Faraday (descendent of Victorian scientist Michael Faraday)
- 92% ABV after distilled – highest of all Malt Whiskies
- Each morning – ‘wash’ boiled & vapourises
- Condenses on first perforated plate & returns to the still = smoother
- Process continues to 2nd plate – evaporates & falls back into still
- Process continues up to seven plates – then drawn off drop by drop into condenser pipe
- Removes chemical compounds (usually removed by charcoaled casks)
- Distillery is located in the Brecon Beacons National Park and draws water exclusively from our own pure source in the carboniferous limestone deep below the distillery.
- This is the only water used in the distilling and blending process and it is a key ingredient in our malt whisky.
- The same source provides some of the finest bottled mineral waters in the world.
- The Penderyn house style derives uniquely from the use of two types of casks.
- Initial maturation - hand-selected bourbon barrels
- Second maturation - Portuguese Madeira Wine barrels or Oloroso depending on what ‘finish’ they are looking to have
Dr Jim Swann – Master Distiller – video: