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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 17:03 GMT
Spirits soaring for Welsh whisky
By Will Smale
BBC News Online business reporter

Penderyn
Watch out Scotland, the Welsh are coming.
Lovers of malt whisky will soon be able to look outside Scotland for a bottle of their favourite wee dram.

On St David's Day, 1 March, the first whisky to be distilled in Wales for more than 100 years will go on sale.

A premium single malt, Penderyn is being made at the Gwalia Distillery in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Produced by the independently-owned Welsh Whisky Company, initial bottles will be four years old, to be followed by older releases in subsequent years.

Smooth

Penderyn is being made from barley malt supplied by the well-known Cardiff-based brewer SA Brain, and is said to be specially distilled to produce a mellow, rounded taste that is lighter than most Scotch whiskies, and matures more quickly.

However, it has deliberately chosen the Scottish spelling of whisky, compared with the Irish and American 'whiskey'.

Pre-tastings of Penderyn have impressed malt whisky experts, including the world-renowned taster Dr Jim Swan.

He says: "The distillation and maturation process at Penderyn produces a whisky that has a smooth, unique style and is easy to drink, delicate and full of flavour."

Dr Swan is even more complimentary about the whisky's future potential.

"When fully matured it is likely to become one of the best single malt whiskies on the market - certainly in the top 20 of single malts worldwide," he says.

Tradition

Like all the Celtic nations, Wales has a long history of spirit distillation.

Unfortunately it failed to establish itself as in Scotland.

It also could not survive the great Welsh non-conformist religious revival of the 19th Century - a movement that saw the devil in whisky - and by the end of the 1800s the last remaining commercial Welsh distillery, near the town of Bala in North Wales, closed.

The Welsh Whisky Company has now revived the tradition at its purpose built distillery in the village of Penderyn, from where the single malt gets its name.

And by maturing the whisky in former bourbon casks, the company is also calling upon an even lesser known piece of Welsh history - many of the founders of the American whiskey industry were in fact Welsh immigrants.

Rebirth

Brian Morgan, the chairman of the Welsh Whisky Company, is also director of the Small Firms Research Unit at Cardiff University Business School.

He said the idea behind the whisky was to create a quality product that could raise Wales' global profile.

"We wanted a high profile product that could sell Wales around the world," he said.

"Restarting whisky-making in Wales and creating a high quality single malt seemed the perfect idea."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Brian Milligan
"The Welsh whisky industry has had a difficult time"



SEE ALSO:
Darling in whisky duty warning
13 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Anger at whisky stamp plans
10 Dec 03  |  Scotland
The battle of the brands
04 Dec 03  |  Scotland


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