The Penderyn whisky distillery is a Welsh distillery based in the town of the same name in south Wales and has been producing whisky since 1998. After there was no whisky distillery in Wales for a long time, Penderyn has been the first to be re-established since the 19th century and wants to revive the Welsh whisky tradition and catch up with its Scottish and Irish neighbors. The whiskies have been available since 2004. There is a lively distilling indistry in resurgence in Wales, gin and rum distilleries are also sprouting up like mushrooms. In April 2015, the Dà Mhìle Distillery near Llandysul for the first time bottled an organic Welsh malt whisky that a farmer had distilled from his own barley in a wood-fired 350 liter small still from the German plant manufacturer Kothe. The Liverpool-based spirits company Halewood built the Aber Falls Distyllfa in 2017 in Abergwyngregyn, North Wales. It brought its first three-year-old single malt onto the market later this year. In the summer of 2017, the farmer and distiller Dafydd Thomas presented his own whisky in the Môn Distillery on Anglesey.
Penderyn is located at the foot of the Brecon Beacons, a majestic mountain range in southeast Wales, in the national park of the same name. Dr. David Faraday, a descendant of the famous Michael Faraday, created a new unique copper still especially for the distillery. In 2004 the first official Welsh single malt whisky was inaugurated in the presence of Prince Charles.
Special features of the distillery
Penderyn’s whisky is produced in a special single-stage distillation process, in a so-called Faraday still. With this method an alcohol content of the whisky of approx. 90% ABV is achieved. Penderyn’s whiskies tend to be bottled young and have their own unique aroma.
The maturation always takes place in two different barrel types (Bourbon and Madeira), which gives the whiskies their freshness and liveliness. The spring water of the Brecon hills ensures the softness. All whiskies are produced without cold filtration, and without the addition of colorings or flavor enhancers.
The main whiskies from Penderyn
Penderyn’s whiskies are mainly bottled as single malts. Different types of oak barrels are used for storage. In addition to ex-bourbon barrels, sherry casks and ex-Madeira barrels are also stored in the distillery’s warehouses. Well-known whiskies are Penderyn Myth, which was matured in Bourbon barrels, Penderyn Legend (successor to the Penderyn Madeira Finish) from Madeira barrels and the Penderyn Celt, which is finished in peated barrels. The Penderyn whiskies are generally bottled as No Age Statements, bottlings without coloring or chill filtration is the rule.
History of Welsh Distillation
Evidence of a Welsh wisgi seems to date back to the fourth century. In Cardigan Bay, the legendary Rhaullt Hir or Reaullt Hir on Bardsey, the ‘island of 20,000 saints’, is said to have distilled a whisky from barley malt, honey and mead in late Roman antiquity. According to tradition, the monks learned distillation from Greek traders or scholars. A myth that sounds plausible. In Banwen south of the Brecon Beacons, the apostle of the Irish, Saint Patrick, is said to have been born in 385. Supposedly he brought the art of distillation into the Gaelic region as a missionary. It is true, however, that the Welsh Whisky Distillery Co. Ltd. in Frongoch, North Wales, began in 1887 and 1889. Distilled a slightly smoky Royal Welsh whisky in large quantities in pot stills on the Rhiwlas Estate of Bala, ennobled by Queen Victoria. After a tragic accident by co-founder Robert Wills in 1900 and the subsequent sale to William Owen, the company was liquidated in 1910. The distillery with an annual production of up to 680,000 liters of alcohol was demolished after the First World War. There is also evidence of a whisky distillery in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, which the Williams family ran around 1705. One scion, Evan Williams, emigrated to the United States and founded a commercial distillery in Louisville on the banks of the Ohio River around 1783. He became one of the co-founders of the Kentucky bourbon industry.
An early attempt at creating Brecon Whisky
However, it was not until 1974 that the Welsh Whisky Co. - it had different names: Brecon Brewery Ltd., Welsh Whisky Ltd., Welsh Distillers Ltd. - tried to revive the extinct Welsh art of distilling with a whisky under the direction of Dafydd Noel Gittins. The first product, a 35 percent by volume blended spirit Swn y ’Don, modified in taste with spices, interpreted an allegedly monastic recipe of the obscure Rhaullt Hirs. The “sound of the wave”, as the poetic translation, was Gittin’s tentative attempt to market a Welsh blend made from a Scottish malt and grain spirit. Modest sales with a Cambria Welsh Celtic Mead and initial sales successes encouraged the novice to produce another flavored spirit with the euphemistic name Swn y ’Mor. He blended the “sound of the sea” in the former Brew House of the Camden Arms he ran in the small town of Brecon, although he initially had no license for it. On the labels, the bottler claimed that the whiskies were blended from Scottish malts and a Welsh grain spirit which did not exist at the time. He also wanted the distillates to be mixed with seven local herbs, just like the monastic alchemists of Beardsey, whom had invented the recipe. To promote sales, Gittins fabulated an impressive myth about the battle-hardened monk Rhaullt Hir, the distiller and founder of a Welsh distillation culture. This legend, which was based on ‘own’ research, still lives today in several Welsh Whisky representations. It is doubtful in terms of sources and invented by Gittins in 1976 for marketing purposes (see Kai Gundermann, “Whisky in Wales. A thousand years earlier than the Scots?”. Overall, the whisky blender was not exactly true to the truth. The resourceful Welshman sold the “Special Reserve Single Malt Welsh Whisky Prince of Wales” without owning the naming rights. “We used Malts from the Speyside filtering through my herbal system,” Gittins writes in his autobiography. The English-Gaelic name “Welsh Whisky wisgi Cymreig” and the Welsh dragon on the labels misled consumers. Both suggested to them that they were whiskies distilled in Wales. Such deceptions aroused the suspicion of the Scottish whisky industry. Matthew Gloag & Son, then Famous Grouse, and the Blender Chivas Brothers successfully sued the Welsh Whisky Company in August 1997. The economic crisis, falling sales, unpaid deliveries, low cash flow and the legal dispute had already accelerated the bottler’s financial ruin from 1995 onwards. The ambitious businessman Gittins’ plans to run a 500,000 liter whisky distillery in Brecon vanished into thin air.
After the takeover by Derrick Wilshee, managing director of an auto export company from Essex, and two other partners in 1996, the company was finally liquidated just two years later. Dafydd Gittins was supposed to be paid by the buyers for a consultancy job, but according to his own statements he did not receive a penny. The new English owners also acted fraudulently: they forged the books and paid neither rent nor alcohol tax 250,000 pounds. The HM Revenue & Customs Department discovered contraband worth two million pounds in their warehouses. They were sentenced to prison terms. Foundation of Penderyn The resurrection of Welsh whisky took place in August 1998 with the Welsh Whisky Company Limited - not to be confused with the Gittins company in Brecon - in the mining town of Penderyn. In the neighboring community of Hirwaun, a group of friends at the Glancynon Inn dreamed of starting a distillery. Alun Evans, Anthony James, Prof. Brian Morgan and others realized their dream of a real wisgi Cymreig without a large financial cushion. It is said that Gwalia Distillery’s share capital was only £ 130,000. Far too little for such an undertaking, which devours considerable material, energy, storage and personnel costs in the first few years. A substantial cash flow can usually only be expected after the whisky has matured for three years. Funding from the EU and the Welsh regional government enabled the founders to build a facility in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Alun Evans had previously operated a beverage wholesaler in Penderyn, whose former warehouse and property have now been sold. The location was ideal for a distillery, because water-bearing layers were hidden at a depth of only 50 meters. On September 14, 2000, the first barley distillate flowed into the Spirit Safe. On the Welsh national holiday of Saint David’s Day, March 1, 2004, the new Penderyn whisky was presented in Cardiff in the presence of HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.
Barley, water, yeast, fermentation, distillation and storage in oak barrels are the same basic principles of production as for the Celtic Cousins. Nevertheless, differences can be discovered: According to the regulations, Scottish distilleries have to purify and ferment their mash themselves at the place of distillation, not so with Penderyn. European law applies here. The basis for the Penderyn Single Malt was until the expansion of the production facilities in 2014 by the largest Welsh brewery S.A. Brain & Co. Ltd. delivered in Cardiff. Lorries brought the beer to the distillery every week. However, this lacked the original fruitiness desired by distillers. As usual, the brewers sterilized the wash by boiling it to prevent a second fermentation that would cloud the beer. As a result, no additional aromas could develop that ultimately make a distillate more fruity. In this dilemma, the distillers at Penderyn activated a second fermentation by adding lactic acid. Such processes are not allowed in Scotland and are no longer used at Penderyn either. The beer, modified by secondary fermentation, with an alcohol strength of eight percent by volume, was fractionated by a fancy distillation system that Dr. David Faraday, a direct descendant of the famous Victorian naturalist Sir Michael Faraday, had planned in the University of Surrey. This innovative plant came to the Penderyn Distillery by chance. There are several stories about how that happened
Creation of the Faraday Still Dafydd Gittins and his Welsh Whisky Co. had the dream of producing their own whisky. To do this, he was looking for a distillation plant that would produce around 500,000 liters of alcohol annually from 1995 onwards. In the fall of 1991 in Newport he met the scientist Dr. David Faraday, who was also fascinated by the idea of such a powerful system and followed its practical implementation with zeal. The pioneering invention of a two-stage copper column apparatus was able to produce not only alcohols from barley malt, but also fermented mashes from other materials in just one distillation process. The Financial Times cited subsidies of £ 340,000. According to Gittins, he himself invested £ 100,000 in the unique project. The team developed a previously unpracticed energy-efficient process that integrated methods from both the petrochemical and the bourbon industry. For the researchers, the Scottish still systems were an inefficient anachronism, an outdated, energy-wasting technology. Here they had found an alternative. From May 1993, Gittins claims in his autobiography, “annually up to 50,000 tourists” marveled at the still commissioned by him behind a glass wall in the newly built Welsh Whisky Distillery in the Brecon Business Park. However, it was not connected or functional. According to Gittin, the still is said to have distilled several batches of whisky in 1995. There are no receipts and fillings. The ingenious marvel was built by the long-established coppersmith McMillan in Prestonpans in East Lothian, Scotland. The spectacular, voluminous spirit collector made of Duran glass came from Schott in Mainz. Additional EU funding supported the construction of the firing apparatus. After the liquidation of the subsequent company of the pseudo whisky maker Gittins in 1997, a bottle filling machine, the Faraday Still and other operating supplies were up for sale. “Do you think it will make good whisky?” Evans asked doubtfully. “It’s being designed to make really good quality spirits,” replied Faraday confidently. But the offer by Alun Evans and his friends of £ 75,000 was initially too little for the creditors. Great luck: When an investor wanted to acquire the company building as soon as possible, but only emptied, Evans, Brian Morgan and Tony Lewis were able to purchase the previously unused Faraday Still, a bottling plant and all other utensils from the insolvent Welsh Distillers Ltd. finally take it over for a bargain price of just £ 50,000! In 1999, renovation work began in the former Gwalia Wine Distribution Warehouse in Penderyn. Under the direction of Dr. Faraday, Irish scientists researched the ideal energy-saving firing processes for the Brecon plant installed at the new location. “In addition to malted barley, we also distilled other substances,” writes Faraday, who is now a lecturer at the University of Surrey. “We developed a new, modern distillery that produces all types of spirit, including vodka, gin and whisky. This was a good thing, because none of the founding fathers of the distillery knew about whisky distillation. […] The precise calibration and operation of the distillery requires a sensitive control. ”Only after this research did the Faraday Still become the unique selling point of the new Gwalia Distillery, which since 2003 has simply been called Penderyn.
The beginning was bumpy. Production started with a team of 16 in 2000. As the capital base was too thin, a lack of cash flow was a recurring problem. Around 500,000 pounds were required annually for ongoing production. “We thought we could sell other products. Vodka, gin, and a whisky cream liqueur called Merlyn to pay for whisky storage and other expenses like buying barrels. How can you be so wrong, ”recalls the former Penderyn Director Prof. Morgan. “It was incredibly difficult for us to even get into the market.” Her whisky should not be a Scottish imitation, it should be independent and Welsh. The whisky makers from Wales felt strong headwinds. They had to realize that prejudices against their product had to be overcome. Brand Director Sian Whitelock conceived effective marketing strategies, developed a brand profile and gradually the acceptance increased. From 2004 to 2012, the chemist Gillian Howell, now Macdonald after her marriage, managed the production of spirits and whiskies as a distiller, blender and brand ambassador. There was also prominent support. HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, and whisky writer Jim Murray popularized Penderyn’s portfolio in the media. Glenn Tutssels (died in 2019) gave Welsh whisky a new identity. The Welsh designer, who is valued in the spirits industry, designed the external appearance: “Let’s not be too traditional, let’s be honest who we are!” With the design of the Penderyn bottle, he broke through previous Scottish conventions in a dynamic, clear, light form. She developed a symbolic interpretation of the Faraday Still. Label and graphic presentation were pleasantly limited to a minimum. “The gold line, the AC logo - Aur Cymru, Welsh gold - represent quality and purity, each symbol referring to Wales. The dragon is the symbol of a proud nation, the three feathers are reminiscent of the national sport of rugby, and a harp is reminiscent of the whale of songs, ”the Glamorgan-born Art Director and Penderyn partner (2008 to 2019) explained his intentions. Retailers and consumers still had to be won over by the quality of the content. The pressure to succeed on the employees in production and marketing was enormous.
The courage and the effort were rewarded: In August 2013, the renowned Scottish coppersmith Forsyths from Rothes installed a second Faraday Still. Increasing demand made a forward-looking capacity expansion necessary. “The investments that Penderyn made with a bank guarantee and with grants from the Welsh government and the EU cost around one million pounds,” says CEO Stephen Davies can. “This extended process enables Master Blender Aista Jukneviciute to distill a new variety of spirits with their own aroma and taste profiles. After maturing in oak barrels, it has whiskies that have different aromas and that allow a wide variety of flavors to create new single malts. Since the spirits are free of harmful substances after the Faraday distillation, the whisky maker concentrates less on the cleaning effect of the barrels, but rather on their selection and pre-allocation in order to build up complexity, taste and depth.
Welsh Whisky is backWith the first distillate, a new Welsh whisky period began on September 14, 2000. The New Makes matured in bourbon barrels from the Jack Daniel Distillery in Tennessee and the Evan Williams Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky for the first few years. That was, in a way, completing a Welsh circle. “We have been filling first-fill barrels from the multi-award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery since 2005, because this is where our whisky matures particularly well,” says Aista Jukneviciute, who comes from Lithuania, describing the maturation process of the barley distillates. She joined the team at the same time as Laura Davies. Initially, Aista was responsible together with Dr. James Swan’s Penderyn Spirits Portfolio. The whisky expert introduced the new employee to the aging effect of the barrel and the art of blending. Today the young mother is solely responsible for the development of the Penderyn whiskies. “It is always a great challenge for me to find an impressive aromatic profile. The creation process and the result are very exciting and fulfilling at the same time. ”She discusses the new bottlings as a team with her colleagues Laura Davies and Bethan Morgan, who is learning the trade as a blender trainee. You can be proud of what has been achieved so far and the positive response from around the world. Jim Murray named a Madeira Single Cask Edition “European Whisky of the Year” in his Whisky Bible 2020. Andrea Caminneci, the sales manager of the Schlumberger importer, in collaboration with Aista Jukneviciute had selected the barrel exclusively for the German market.
The Penderyn House Style, what is it?
“After a maturation period of at least three years in Bourbon barrels - usually a little more than five years - our whisky undergoes a second refinement in Portuguese Madeira barrels for at least six months,” explains the experienced master blender. “These barrels, in which the vintners used to develop a strong, fortified island wine under little oxygen, give the whisky an aromatic Madeira finish. Its youthfully fresh alcohol notes are softened, smoother and softer. ”This is not surprising, because the special purity of the Faraday distillates makes the whisky ready to drink at a young age. He feels particularly at home in bourbon casks, where he mainly takes on notes of fruit, vanilla and caramel. A subtle second embossing in Portuguese barrels provides additional flavors and color pigments that make it more complex and varied. For Aista Jukneviciute, this second maturation is decisive: “In the Madeira barrels we get a beautiful golden color and a creamy caramel note, including impressions of many raisins and Christmas pudding. The whisky is dry and crisp on the tongue, plus green apples and caramel. It’s very soft. ”Dr. Swan recommended: “[…] which helps to improve it’s delicacy of flavor […] Madeira Casks should develop rich toffee, cream, raisin type flavors which will also combine with the fruity flavor from a Bourbon barrel.” The Scot was Aistas and Lauras Teacher. When the first operators of the Penderyn Distillery reached their limits with their limited knowledge, they sought professional advice. The internationally recognized Scottish whisky researcher took a liking to the idea of minting a Welsh whisky. “The first advisory contacts came about in 2000,” says Prof. Morgan, “In 2003 he became our first Master Distiller and Master Blender.” The technical and scientific expert, who unfortunately died too early, modified the fermentation processes and refined the distillation processes. He created the Penderyn Style with his knowledge and skills. Swan established the separation points that still apply today. Penderyn was his first place of work, the innovative style lured the researcher to Wales. This was followed by orders that were to take him from Islay via Brittany to Israel, India and Taiwan. “Dr. Swan was a godsend for the development of Penderyn whiskies. You are his legacy. Without his commitment, the project would not have developed positively ”, emphasizes managing director Stephen Davies appreciatively.
In January 2014 Forsyths delivered two typical Scottish stills to Penderyn. The elegantly shaped “lantern-shaped wash and spirit stills” fractionate a non-smoking barley spirit in a two-part distillation. The Shell and Tube Condensers are relatively small, but were provided with 57 copper pipes carrying cooling water, which increase the copper surface of the system and thus contribute significantly to the purity of the New Makes. Dr. Swan. The management had dreamed of a “Scottish” pot still distillation from the very beginning. The first spirit from our own wash ran through the spirit safe in August 2014. “It is stronger, more oily and more opulent in the aromas and in the taste,” Laura Davies compares the New Make with the Faraday spirit. “We do not distill a smoky spirit on these systems.” This again shows the competence of the developer and distiller Swan, who, together with Richard Forsyth, designed a system that burns extremely fruity spirits in the rough and fine spirits. The relatively thin and long Lyne Arms (ghost pipes), which slope downwards and lead to the cooling condensers, are striking. The Scottish Master Distiller also determined the narrow separation points of the middle course of 76 to 70 percent by volume. They still apply. “That gives us the flavor profile we want. […] It is sweet, vinous, soft and by no means hard or citrus-like. Although we work with traditional stills, the New Make moves at the light end with an average of 74 percent by volume. We redistill the first and last runnings and mix them with the low wines. Since the average alcohol concentration reaches 35 percent by volume, we heat the kettle of the fine bubble very gently, because we want to get a very light new make after all. Nevertheless, compared to the FaradaySpirit, it is a bit stronger, has more body, shows aromas of cooked fruits, a bit like Apple Pie, but it is good and balanced in aroma, a bit malty. The Penderyn Spirit [from the Faraday Still], on the other hand, is much lighter, shows more tropical fruits, a lot of peach, is very fresh, very fragrant, not malty, ”explains the current master distiller Laura Davies. Master Blenderin Aista Jukneviciute will use both types of spirit in the future when composing new single malts in order to combine the aromatic advantages of one with those of the other.
In the beginning, the production volume and portfolio of the Welsh people were manageable. Over the years, the United Kingdom (70 percent) became the largest sales market. The sales volume in 2018 was twelve million pounds. Director Davies cleverly placed the whiskies in the Welsh market, where identification with Penderyn is greatest. The products were sold in the numerous branches of the Tesco grocery chain. The Welshman is proud of his ambitious team and of what has been achieved so far, as the company has been in the black for seven years. “We started without sufficient financial resources. Today Harrods, Asda, Tesco, Waitrose and all major supermarket chains sell our spirits, including the luxury hotels Ritz and Savoy in London. […] We used to be laughed at when we talked about our Welsh whisky. The machinations of the Welsh Distillers from Brecon also caused difficulties for us, they made acceptance more difficult. We had to tear down many barriers. ”Strong national and international sales partners are essential for the economic success of an independent distillery. The Sazerac Company - which is responsible for the Buffallo Trace barrels - sold Penderyn in the USA, but they were not satisfied with the performance and switched to the importer ImPex, a specialist for smaller producers. Since autumn 2019 the largest independent British beverage retailer and manufacturer Halewood Wines & Spirits has been selling parts of the Penderyn portfolio in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Liverpool are not shareholders, with the North Welsh Aberfalls Distillery since 2019 in a certain way even competitors. In the flourishing travel retail trade, Haleybrooke International will create new access to duty free shops in the American economic area. Domestic wholesaler Castell Howells Foods, a shareholder of Penderyn, sells the products in Wales and the English South West. “Schlumberger is a very valuable and successful partner for us in Germany,” emphasizes Penderyn’s Distribution Manager Giancarlo Bianchi, “because for an independent whisky producer, functioning sales are crucial for economic success.” Penderyn is present in 40 markets. 40 investors as well as members of the management and some employees created a basis for the development of the distillery. However, Nigel Vernan Short played a decisive role in the continued existence. “2003 was a critical year, we didn’t have the capital,” recalls Stephen Davies. “As luck would have it, the old board of directors, when looking for potential investors, received crucial information from a London financial broker. There is a Welshman who sold his company in the steel industry to Australians in 1999 and is looking for investment opportunities. ”With Short, who happens to come from Aberdare, a neighboring town of Penderyn, in 2003 a necessary financial consolidation and calm came into the company. “A distillery could not be run with enthusiasm, given the high material, energy and personnel costs.” But before his financial commitment, Short asked for a test of the whisky quality. No less a person than the founder of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Philip Hills pronounced: “This is a very good spirit, not Scottish but unique.” The future was saved. A strategic realignment took place with the new investor. Short had earned a million dollar fortune in the steel industry and he was convinced by the potential of Penderyn. Side note: Stephen Davies was at Short Bros. Development Ltd. an executive before he began to direct the fortunes of the distillery in late 2004. He recalls: “We advertised at farmers’ markets […], the Royal Welsh Show […]. Our whiskies were then in 60 Tesco stores and 80 off-licenses from Wales. Penderyn became a Welsh brand. ”The initial 60,000 liters annual production turned into 400,000 liters. The demand is increasing worldwide. “In 2004 we sold 50,000 bottles of Penderyn whisky, now it’s almost 500,000,” says Davies happily. “We work around the clock, seven days a week. We want to export 40 percent of our whiskies in three years. ”The largest markets are Great Britain, France, Germany and, of course, soon the USA. The imaginative Sales Director Giancarlo Bianchi opens up new sales networks in Europe, Asia, Australia and South Africa. The Penderyn Distillery has achieved a unique position in the global whisky industry with its “smoothest wysgi”: Aur Cymru is the whisky with a distinctive Welsh character.
Manager Davies and his team are full of plans: “We are planning two craft distilleries, one in Swansea and one in Llandudno. In both we will distill a non-smoky and a smoky spirit with further Faraday stills. ”One of these distilleries near the Liberty Stadium of Swansea City FC is to produce a single malt on the site of the demolished HafodMorfa copper works. In the place where over a thousand workers once earned their income in the “largest copperworks in the world”, Nigel Short is investing in an adventure distillery, which is set up in the former copper mill building and is expected to attract well over 50,000 visitors a year. “But the activities for which the city administration is responsible are delayed. We are now planning to implement our project in 2022, ”hopes Bianchi. Another tourist hot spot will be built in a school building from 1882 in the largest Welsh seaside resort, Llandudno. “The renovation work for a second small distillery is progressing there. We burn a smoky spirit in a copy of the Faraday Still, ”explains CEO Davies. “We hope to start production in summer 2021. […] The investment amounts to eight million pounds. "
|Name||Pronounced||AKA||Region||Country of Origin|
|Status||Active||Whisky Type||Website||Tours Available|
|Active||2004 - Present||Malt||Penderyn||Tour Link|
|Manager||Distiller||Blender||Owned by||Parent Group|
|Jim Swan||Nigel Short|