Like the other Celtic nations, Wales has a long history of spirit distillation. It started life as far back as the 4th century, with a man known as Reaullt Hir distilling on Bardsey Island off the North Wales coast.
The ingredients of this early spirit, known universally as “aqua-vitae” or gwirod in the Welsh language, was a mix of barley, yeast and honey distilled to make a basic raw spirit.
In more recent times, there was a small commercial distillery at Dale in Pembrokeshire, opened in 1705. This distillery was owned by Evan Williams’s family who later emigrated to the USA and helped found the Kentucky Whiskey Industry. His name is still attached to a number of high quality bourbons to this day.
In the 19th Century a whisky distillery operated at Frongoch near Bala in North Wales under the chairmanship of a Mr Robert Willis. In the late 1800’s, 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 cart, conspired to put an end to distillation in Wales for more than 100 years.
On 14th September 2000, history was made when the first distillation was carried out at The Welsh Whisky Company’s Penderyn Distillery, in the picturesque Brecon Beacons National Park. The area has spectacular mountain scenery, open moorland and valleys containing fast-flowing streams, rivers and waterfalls. The famous and popular Scwyd-Yr-Eira waterfall is within walking distance of the distillery
The majority of the distilled malt spirit is laid down and matured in Jack Daniel and Evan Williams bourbon casks, and finished in rare Madeira barrels to impart a unique and distinctive character and flavor to Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky. A number of other woods, such as sherry casks, are also used for maturation, to provide a variety of specialised “limited edition” whiskies to be released from time to time.
All distillation, maturation and (unusually) bottling are carried out on the company’s premises; enabling close quality control to be applies to all stages of the process.
Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky was first launched on St David’s Day, 1st March 2004, to huge critical acclaim from both acknowledged whisky experts and “ordinary” consumers.
For more information see: http://www.welsh-whisky.co.uk