A History of Welsh Single Malt Whisky and Welsh Whisky Brands
Welsh whisky has recently been granted UK GI status, so it is protected from imitation or misuse. But what is Welsh whisky? What is the history of whisky in Wales?
We explore the recent resurgence of Welsh whisky and why it stopped being produced over 100 years ago.
The History of Whisky in Wales: A Timeline
Whisky in Wales first started production in the 1700s. However, by 1887 the last distillery in Wales closed until the year 2000.
Here is a comprehensive timeline:
1700s – Early Distillation Attempts
Wales has a long history of brewing and distilling, but whisky production was sporadic and small-scale during this period. Some farmers and illicit distillers produced whisky for local consumption.
1800s – Decline of Distillation
In the 19th century, whisky production in Wales faced challenges due to changes in taxation, regulations, and competition from larger Scottish distilleries. Many Welsh distilleries closed down during this time.
1890 – The Opening of Frongoch
Frongoch Distillery can be said to be the most successful Welsh whisky company in the 19th Century. They first opened their doors in 1890 with 30 workers and 150,000 gallons of whisky produced per year at its height. In 1895, the distillery received a royal warrant, hence Royal Welsh Whisky was born.
1910 – Closure of Last Distillery
Unfortunately, by 1910 Frongoch Distillery was in serious trouble. The company went bankrupt and the facilities in Frongoch, Bala were abandoned. During World War One the building became a prisoner of war camp, most notably Irish prisoners were held there during the Easter Rising. This ultimately marked the end of a significant era of Welsh whisky production.
1990s – Revival
In the late 20th century, there was a resurgence of interest in distilling in Wales, inspired by the success of Scottish whisky. Several entrepreneurs, such as Pendragon and Dà Mhìle, saw an opportunity to revive the Welsh whisky tradition and began laying down casks for maturation.
2000 – Penderyn Distillery
In 2000, the Penderyn Distillery, located in the village of Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons National Park, became the first Welsh distillery to start producing whisky in over a century.
2004 – First Bottling
In 2004, Penderyn released its first official single malt whisky, marking a significant milestone in the revival of Welsh whisky.
2012 – Second Distillery
The Dà Mhìle Distillery, located in West Wales, began producing Welsh single malt whisky, further contributing to the growing reputation of Welsh whisky.
2020s – Continued Growth
Welsh whisky continues to gain popularity and recognition for its quality. New distilleries may have emerged, and existing ones have expanded their product offerings.
2023 – Welsh Whisky UK GI Status
Welsh Whisky is granted UK GI status by the British government. Providing legal protection from imitation or misuse. It joins other incredible Welsh produce including, Anglesey Sea Salt PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI Welsh Lamb, PGI Welsh Beef and Welsh Leeks PGI.
Welsh Whisky Brands
There are currently only four Welsh whisky brands in Wales. All of which established their distinctive brand since the year 2000, over 100 years since the closure of Frongoch Distillery in 1887.
- Penderyn: The first and most well-known Welsh whisky brand, based in the village of Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Pendragon installed their first copper still in 2000 and opened their first distillery in 2004 in the presence of the then HRH Prince Charles. They opened two further distilleries in Llandudno in 2021 and Swansea in 2023.
- Dà Mhìle: This brand operates a distillery in West Wales and produces organic Welsh whisky. Run by the Savage-Onstwedders family they commissioned their first whisky back in 1992, then opened the Dà Mhìle distillery in 2012 making organic spirits.
- Aber Falls Distillery: Located in Abergwyngregyn, near Snowdonia National Park, this distillery produces a range of spirits, including award winning Welsh whisky.
- In The Welsh Wind: In The Welsh Wind produces small batch single malt whisky and is based in Cardigan Bay. They claim to be the only Welsh distillery to produce single malt whisky from 100% locally grown grain, which is malted, matured and stored on site.
For more information on each brand visit their website, or tour their distilleries in Wales!
Rising Popularity of Whisky
Whisky as an industry continues to develop and increase in popularity worldwide.
The global interest in whisky as a social beverage grows every year. So, Welsh whisky could rise to the heights of popularity of other countries’ versions of the famous drink.
UKV International AG’s primary business centres around acquiring, supplying, and selling bonded whisky.