Did you know Wales produces its own whisky? It
might not be as well known as its Scottish or Irish counterparts,
but that is changing.
Penderyn Whisky (which takes its name from the village in the
Brecon Beacons National Park where the distillery is based) started
production in 2000 and the first bottle was released on St David's
Day in 2004. It was the first whisky to be (legally!) produced in
Wales since the 19th century. The distillery is situated on a
natural spring and it uses this water, to produce the whisky.
The visitor centre opened in 2008 and gives visitors a tour
explaining how the distilling process works. Even better, at the
end of the tour you get the chance to sample the whisky (or vodka,
gin or cream liquor that they also produce).
And if you're really into your whisky, why not try the Penderyn Distillery Master
Class tour. This includes a detailed tour of the
distillery, an in-depth look at how the whisky is made and also an
expert tasting session.
For more details take a look at their website - www.welsh-whisky.co.uk
Last week I was invited by the people at Penderyn
Whisky to undertake one of their master class tours.
Now, this isn't your ordinary tour. They
of course do them as well. They last around an hour
and are always good fun. But the master class tour is a lot more in
depth. It lasts 2 and a half hours and is for those with a real
interest in whisky and how it's made.
The tour was lead by the distiller Gillian Macdonald, who
incidentally is one of the only female distillers in the world. We
were joined by some locals, a group of friends on a stag weekend
from Leicester and Megan Eaves (@megoizzy), a journalist from the
United States who I was accompanying.
It all began in the boardroom which overlooks the bottling plant.
Here we found out about the history of distilling in Wales and how
Penderyn Whisky came into being at the turn of the century. (In
case you're wondering, plans were literally drawn up one evening on
the back of a beer mat at the local pub).
We then learnt about the different types of whisky from around the
world and how Scottish Whisky was different to Irish Whiskey and
what made Penderyn different and unique (It is made using just one
still - you see I was paying attention).
Gillian then explained what made a good whisky and what flavours
you could expect to find in one. She then had a little test for us.
She passed around 10 bottles containing aromas to see if we had a
distiller's nose and could identify the smells. I managed a 100%
record in identifying the flavours - yes 0 out of 10. I don't think
Gillian will be appointing me as her assistant anytime soon.
Then it was downstairs and into the room housing the still where
we got a close look at the big copper drum and network of pipes,
cables and valves that are needed to produce the whisky. We then
saw the different types of casks that the clear whisky is matured
in. It's from these casks that the whisky draws its colours and
Back up to the boardroom where it was time to taste two different
types of Penderyn, one of their normal variety and one of the peat
flavoured whiskies. The peat whisky was actually created by
accident when the distillery was sent the wrong batch of casks to
mature their spirit in. The whisky they produced in the end was so
nice they decided to bottle and sell it and has become one of their
most popular varieties.
The master class then naturally ended in the bar where we got to
sample more of their produce including their gin, vodka and cream
liquor. Gillian was a fantastic host, always ready to answer
questions and to make sure we were all having a good time.
I have done the normal tour many times, but this was my first
master class. I certainly learnt a lot and the whole experience was
very enjoyable and judging by the laughter and good humour so did
the rest of the group.
For more information on Penderyn Distillery and their tours please
visit their website