Contributor: Luke Summers
Setting the scene
Wales currently has just one whisky distillery, Penderyn, which released the first Welsh whisky in over 100 years in 2004.
The last Welsh whisky distillery before Penderyn, was established by R. J. Lloyd Price in 1887 and was located in the village of Frongoch in Gwynedd, Wales. Price’s company, the Welsh Whisky Distillery Company, was not a commercial success and was sold to William Owen of Bala in 1900 for the sum of £5,000. The company was liquidated a decade later in 1910.
The Welsh word for whisky is wysgi.
Welsh whisky distilleries
Penderyn Distillery was established by The Welsh Whisky Company in 2000. The company is privately owned and managed.
Their first whisky was officially released on St David’s Day, 1st March 2004, in the presence of HRH Prince Charles. This was the first Welsh whisky released in over 100 years.
A visitor centre was later developed and was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles in June 2008.
The whisky still used at Penderyn is a single copper pot still, exclusively invented for Penderyn by Dr David Faraday. The unique Faraday pot still forms to a rectifying column, which is then linked to a second rectifying column. At 92% alcohol by volume their new spirit has the highest strength of any commercial malt whisky. The distillery sources its wash from Brains Brewery (which is located in Cardiff, Wales). Their whiskies are not chill filtered.
The production at Penderyn Distillery is currently relatively small scale, producing just one cask of whisky per day. However, in early 2013 they announced plans to increase production, with the addition of a second still matching their existing unique design, along with a further two pot stills of a different type to allow them to experiment with new styles.
The Penderyn house style derives mainly from the use of two types of cask. For the initial maturation they use ex-Bourbon barrels, maturation is then finished in ex-Madeira casks. They also use other casks for different whiskies in their range, including ex-Port casks.
Their peated whisky is not produced using peated barley, but rather is matured in barrels that previously held peated Scotch whisky. This originally came about by accident when they incorrectly received a number of barrels that had held peated Scotch whisky – the result of maturation in these barrels proved so successful that they decided to continued with this approach.
Jim Swan is the ‘Master Blender & Consultant Distiller’ at Penderyn Distillery.
Penderyn Distillery is located in the village of Penderyn, at the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Distillery tours and whisky tastings are available.
Penderyn Distillery’s unique Faraday pot still