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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Whisky galore!
Richard David, landlord The Old House, Llangynwyd
Richard David with a bottle of Bere Barley - 11 a shot!
BBC News Online Wales's Steve Dixon visited The Old House in south Wales to discover how the Welsh have beat the Scots at stocking a good bottle of malt.

The villagers of Llangynwyd have been quietly celebrating their coup over the whisky-loving Scots with a nip of the good stuff down at the Old House.
Brian Bird: Toasting pub's success
Brian Bird: Toasting pub's success

The award of the Good Pub Guide's prize for the Best Whisky Pub in the UK is testament to landlord Richard David's hard work in tracking down hundreds of bottles from round the world.

The Old House currently offers 350 different whiskies, but at one time boasted 425.

"Obviously, they got drunk!" said Richard, 49, who has run the pub for the past 25 years.

He was delighted to pinch the award from the Scots - but felt it was not unexpected.

"Every time I have gone to Scotland, I have been very, very disappointed with the pubs," he said.

"The choice of beers and whiskies, in my experience, is very limited."

The Old House - UK's best whisky pub: here
Built in 1147
Stocks 350 whiskies
Richard David began collecting with a bottle called Old House
The landlord's favourite tipple is called Springbank
A secret serving hatch was used to supply the local priest

Regular Brian Bird, 52, from Maesteg, who likes a drop of Jameson's, toasted Richard's success.

"It is outstanding. I thought a Scottish pub would have won it. We are proud of what the pub has achieved. He has got a beautiful set-up here."

Richard's passion for stocking whisky began 10 years ago when regular Trevor Jones, from Porthcawl, brought in a bottle called Old House. Then another customer brought in a whisky called Old Richard.

From there, began a passionate hobby that has become the envy of many a rural pub.

Richard has relied heavily on distributors such as Ballantines in Cowbridge and former Wales second row Phil May from United Distillers, who has helped turn The Old House into a whisky-lover's haven.

Richard has lost none of his passion over the years for finding new and exotic tipples.
The Old House has commanding views from its vantage point
The Old House has commanding views from its vantage point

He poured me a generous measure from his most expensive bottle - Bere Barley, costing 11 a shot, with a smooth taste to match.

"It is distilled by a Frenchman, Michel Couvreur, from hops sown in the Orkneys," he said.

"He bought the ancient strain of barley and every bottle has a cask number and the date of when it was distilled."

Two more bottles appeared on the table - an Irish discovery from Limerick and another bearing the name Dilwyn Lewis, an 86% proof whisky named after a gentleman from nearby Pontycymmer.

"When this started off, I thought it would be a hobby. Now I am on the lookout for something new all the time.

St Cynwyd's is an important focal point of the village
St Cynwyd's is an important focal point of the village

The inn has been a watering hole for hundreds of years, at first as a quiet retreat for the rural farming community, then later for thirsty miners, walking miles from the pit to their homes between the valleys.

Dating back to the 12th century, the thatched pub has played a central role in the community.

Glyn Budd, 59, who maintains the huge St Cynwyd's cemetery opposite the pub, said The Old House was part of a timeless community, tucked away from the world.
Glyn Budd at the grave of William Hopkin
Glyn Budd at the grave of William Hopkin

"This is one of south Wales's best kept secrets," he said.

"People love to come here, because they have never been anywhere like it with the views and the quiet walks. It is something quite different."

The history of the village is steeped in religion, passion and rumour.

One of the most famous tales centres on the ill-fated 18th Century love affair between the well-bred Ann Thomas and local poet William Hopkin.

"Her mother banned Ann from seeing William and she was married off to gentry. The story goes she wrote to William in her own blood. She later died of a broken heart," said Glyn.

Hopkin's name lives on in the folk song Bugeilio'r Gwenith Gwyn (Harvesting the White Wheat), which tells of his love for Ann.

The couple's tragic love is celebrated at The Old House, where Hopkin was said to be a regular - but no-one knows if the poet penned his sad verse with the help of a glass of whisky.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Scotland
Welsh pub scoops whisky title
17 Oct 01 | England
Lancashire laps up cheap beer
17 Sep 01 | Scotland
New whisky made with beer
22 Nov 00 | Scotland
Industry plea for whisky cuts
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