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BBC Wales' Caroline Evans
"The dawning of a new era"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Valleys spirit to challenge scotch
Arthur Davies company secretary of the Welsh Whisky Company
Checking the bottling process at the distillery
Production of the first whisky to be distilled in Wales for more than a century has begun.

Eventually production at the distillery in Hirwaun, near Aberdare, should fill more than 30,000 bottles a year.

But those wanting to taste it will have to wait three years before the spirit matures.

The first Welsh-distilled whisky in generations began life on Wednesday at Brain's brewery in Cardiff where malted barley was first cooked up.

'Organic'

It was then taken to Hirwaun where the distilling is to be carried out.

The latest in eco-friendly stills for the spirit's production has been designed with a European Union grant of 600,000.

When the spirit is laid-down to mature it will be in barrels from Jack Daniels' Kentucky distillery, which are used to give the new whisky extra flavour.

Whisky distilling died out in Wales in 1894, and attempts to re-launch Welsh whisky foundered two years ago after scotch manufacturers won a court battle to prevent Scottish blends being bottled in Wales being labelled as "Welsh whisky".

But the Welsh Whisky Company is confident its product will be successful - and even claims to have stolen a march on Scottish producers by distilling the first "organic" whisky.

"Previous companies didn't do it correctly. They were just blending different types of whisky and calling it Welsh whisky," said Welsh Whisky Company Secretary Arthur Davies.

"We're starting from the beginning - from the first stage - and developing and distilling our own whisky."

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