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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Welsh Whisky

Revisiting Aber Falls Distillery

The last time we visited Aber Falls Distillery, the whisky wasn’t old enough to taste. That all changed this year, however, so we went back to see if this Welsh whisky…

The last time we visited Aber Falls Distillery, the whisky wasn’t old enough to taste. That all changed this year, however, so we went back to see if this Welsh whisky lived up to its promise. 

Back in 2018, we headed towards the mountains of Snowdonia to see the Aber Falls Distillery in all its glory. The first new make spirit was just flowing off the stills and we looked forward to the prospect of tasting another Welsh whisky. This year that promise turned into reality as the distillery released its first two expressions, with the inaugural release selling out in 40 minutes. Luckily there’s enough of the Autumn 2021 Release to go around.

It’s the realisation of a concept that goes back to 2014 for MD James Wright, who had a desire to build an authentic, distinctive whisky distillery like his beloved Springbank that represented its local area while having a global appeal. He seems to have succeeded. While there recently, we saw visitors from the local area and further afield, and Aber Falls now exports to countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and South Africa. 

But does the whisky live up to expectations? Well, yes, in a word. The Autumn 2021 Release is borderline dangerously drinkable and unreal value at £26. Some will be disappointed at the 40% ABV strength and will detect the tell-tale signs of young whisky, but the selection of casks are balanced well to add flavour and depth and you can tell at the core this is a strong new make spirit with a delicate, fruity and versatile profile that’s been elevated by the cask selection. 

Aber Falls Distillery

There’s now a swanky new visitor centre, that wasn’t here last time!

The Aber Falls way

It’s very impressive stuff all around, I can see this being the kind of whisky I’ll give to friends who I want to convert to the pleasures of a good dram and at that price it will have return customers and curious newbies alike. It’s refreshing to see a distillery get so much right from concept to craft, particularly as things could easily be so different. 

Owner Halewood isn’t exactly small fry, and with a site in Belfast coming, Bankhall recently opening in Blackpool and the revival of Crabbie’s Distillery in Edinburgh, the company is currently on a mission to have a distillery in every home nation. The worry is that there’s going to be a certain uniformity in style and production but throughout the process at Aber Falls you can see choices that are about creating tasty whisky with a distinct sense of identity.

Take the 100% Welsh barley the distillery uses, a malted Laureate variety from Pembrokeshire that costs a lot more than simply sourcing from England. That would have been easier, but that’s not what Wright wanted. “Our crop is grown on home soil and that plays a part in the outcome of the whisky due to nutrient and nitrogen levels being different from other areas of the country, which in turn affects the amount of starch and sugars available for making alcohol,” he explains. Wright is also currently working closely with Bangor University to research a range of profiles of malted barley and ultimately increase the yield potential in the long term, while grain experimentation was also hinted at (expect 100% Welsh rye, folks!)

Aber Falls Distillery

The Aber Falls process has its own distinguishable methods

Welsh whisky through and through

Every process from milling to bottling is carried out on-site, with 20 tonnes of barley processed each day split into two loads of 10 tonnes. It’s stored in 30-tonne capacity silos while 12 mashes are carried out across the week. Long fermentation, 72-90 hours, is carried out in 5,000-litre stainless steel washbacks, favoured because Wright was keen that unwanted bacteria didn’t affect the whisky. 

He says they experiment extensively with fermentation, from trialling different yeast strains to varying wash back temperatures, and that’s a policy they’ll do continuously. “It is vital that we’re always looking at different yields and outcomes so we can produce the best quality whisky. We are always looking to achieve consistency and quality on an ongoing basis, but simultaneously, continually looking at what experimental flavour profiles we can achieve”.

The aim is to create a spirit that has a lush, fruity tone with sweet cereal notes and a rounded character when it runs off the two copper pot stills made by Macmillan, a 6,500 wash still called Golchi and a 3,600-litre spirit still called Gwirod. The former has a bulb on the shoulder to increase reflux and copper contact. There’s also a reflux jacket in which cold water is pumped in, while two copper and two stainless steel condensers offer the unique prospect of creating various new makes of different styles, from heavier, funky spirit to light and clean, key in helping him build an extensive, flexible portfolio.

Aber Falls Distillery

It’s good to be back

Generally, Wright and his team will cask the whisky at around 58-68% ABV, depending on the style of new make created. Both European and American oak is used, and Welsh whisky laws allow for a lot of flexibility of wood and profile and cask. The brand has used the likes of Oloroso, PX, Port, virgin oak and even orange wine (that’s wine made from oranges), with Wright saying annual costs are around £1m and that there’s a 21-year maturation plan in place. 

Traditional dunnage storage is used to encourage more wood contact and the warehouses are about ten minutes from the Menai Straits, which along with being tucked into a mountain valley, creates a unique climate with low humidity to enhance the water evaporation rather than the alcohol and a sea breeze that maintains a consistent temperature. “Our coastal terroir is a real asset, together with the soft Welsh water coming directly off the Snowdonia mountains,” Wright says.

Aber Falls Distillery

The new farmer’s market typifies Aber’s community-led approach

Not just another Scotch

It’s all part of a vision to produce something that isn’t just another Scotch, and being a distillery in Wales offers Aber Falls excellent flexibility and the potential to do things differently. “We’re not bound by rules around using specific ingredients, production methods, and wood types. As a result, we’re able to ensure that our whisky remains true to tradition whilst diversifying to produce a unique spirit to North Wales,” Wright says. “We go beyond imitation and make something that is truly a Welsh whisky, which means a product sourced, distilled, packaged, and sold within Welsh borders”.

Part of the long-term plan to build and protect the category is to establish a GI status for Welsh whisky. Wright is keen to respect the history of Welsh whisky, which he describes as “significantly influence” and one that plays a role in the distillery’s past, present, and future. “We wouldn’t be a genuine Welsh brand without commemorating the heritage of Welsh whisky and incorporating it into our direction moving forward”.

Wright wants to be part of the formation of a Welsh whisky category that prioritises things like community and sustainability. So often trendy buzzwords, but they do seem to have real meaning here. The by-products of the distillation process go to the surrounding farms, the visitor centre uses local produce, the distillery’s heat source is solar and more electric energy is being worked on, while a hydro plant in the community is also planned. He also works closely with the farmers union when sourcing barley and the distillery hosts a brand new farmer’s market, a showcase of local and independent food, drink, arts and crafts, and more.

Aber Falls single malt 2021 release

So, if you’re yet to give Welsh whisky or this bright young distillery a try, you can be secure in the knowledge they get two big thumbs up from us. We’ll leave you with a tasting note for its Autumn 2021 Release, which was matured in a combination of Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez, bourbon, and virgin oak casks and, as we said at the beginning of this feature, is bloody delicious. Enjoy!

Aber Falls Autumn 2021 Release Tasting Note:

On the nose: Lots of freshly grated orange zest leads with hints of coffee fudge, sourdough and dates in support, as well as an almost funky, rummy tropical fruit note and just a touch of fresh garden herbs.

In the mouth: Rich, sweet and with a glossy yet mellow delivery, the palate has more vibrant orange citrus elements throughout as well as darker fruits, slick honey, espresso, and the kind of creamy, nutty note you get from Kinder bars. There’s a bit of immaturity in the form of peppery oak but it’s a whisper in the backdrop.

Finish: The finish is drier and spicier, with some nuttiness and salinity making things interesting among blackcurrant, ginger snaps and more of that core orange note.

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New Arrival of the Week: Aber Falls Single Malt Autumn 2021

The first release from Aber Falls distillery sold out in 40 minutes. Thankfully, the second batch is now here, and even better, it’s very reasonably priced which is why Aber…

The first release from Aber Falls distillery sold out in 40 minutes. Thankfully, the second batch is now here, and even better, it’s very reasonably priced which is why Aber Falls Single Malt Autumn 2021 release is our New Arrival of the Week.

Whisky has always been expensive but it does sometimes seem that prices have been going particularly bananas of late. At the top end five figures are not unusual while new distilleries often release their three year old whiskies for north of £50.

Aber Falls Single Malt Autumn 2021 release 

So it’s refreshing to see the price of the second release from Aber Falls in Wales. Just £26 (at the time of writing). Roughly the price of a good blend. And for that you’re getting a small batch single malt whisky made entirely from local barley. And this isn’t some light fruity little whisky, it’s packed full of flavour from its complicated ageing regime. The distillery is going for maximum flavour in the young spirit. How do they do it for the money? 

The Aber Falls set-up is an interesting one with a mixture of copper pot and stainless steel stills. The 2021 release was then matured in a mix of ex-Oloroso and PX sherry casks, ex-bourbon casks, and virgin oak casks, before diluting with local spring water and bottling at 40% ABV. It’s a little more conventional than the inaugural release which included ageing in orange wine casks – yes, wine made from oranges. 

A big signing

Aber Falls began distilling in January 2018. The distillery is located in a beautiful part of North Wales located just south of Abergwyngregyn between the A55 and the Menai Strait. Earlier this year, parent company Halewood caused waves in the whisky world when it signed Dr Kirstie McCallum as its master blender earlier. She had only just joined Glen Moray in 2019 from Distell which owned Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory, but seemingly relished the challenge of joining a company where there was everything to play for. Halewood has many booze pies (mmmmm, booze pies) including the Crabbie’s single malt distillery in Edinburgh which is yet to release its inaugural whisky – more on that later this week.

McCallum commented on the Aber Falls 2021 release: “The perfect whisky is made up of exceptional ingredients, ideal conditions and well considered casks made of top-quality wood. In particular, the two sherry casks used for this single malt have provided a very enjoyable flavour that we’re incredibly proud of.”

The inaugural release sold out in 40 minutes

MD James Wright, who has been with the distillery since it was founded, added: “We are thrilled to release our 2021 Welsh Single Malt whisky, following the successful inaugural release earlier in the year, which saw 2,000 bottles sell out in just 40 minutes! We’re a distillery that proudly produces 100% Welsh whisky, capturing the Welsh craft and heritage in every bottle. As a result, our products are extremely sustainable, enabling us to benefit Wales at every stage of production, including returning any waste ingredients to local farms for use as fertiliser or cattle feed”.

Naturally there’s also a signature cocktail. Welsh Bartender Alex Mills has come up with an Old Fashioned with a Welsh twist that’s loosely based on the flavours of a Bara Brith, a spiced tea cake common in North Wales. The signature serve consists of ingredients from the four corners of Wales, including 15ml of honey from Nature’s Little Helpers in Cardiff, a pinch of black Welsh tea from Tea Traders in Carmarthen, five drops of coffee bitters from Dyfi Coffee in Machynlleth and, of course, 50ml of Aber Falls single malt.

With Aber Falls releasing whisky, there’s now something of a Welsh whisky scene alongside Penderyn’s Brecon Beacons distillery which was founded in 2000. Penderyn is now expanding with an outpost in Llandudno open and one in the pipeline in Swansea. Meanwhile we were fortunate enough to try some very promising new make from the In the Welsh Wind distillery in Cardigan Bay in South Wales. Let’s hope it follows the Aber Falls model of good whisky and reasonable prices. 

Aber Falls single malt 2021 release

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Creamy malt with diced nuts, caramel crystallized fruit, dates, and prunes.

Palate: Vanilla and toffee cross zesty orange peel, heaps of sherried sultanas, and dried fruits. A gentle spice picks up with clove, earthy coffee, and extra dark chocolate, studded with nuts.

Finish: The creamy texture prevails, vanilla fudge, darker notes of berries and cherries, sherried fruit cake, soft barley spice.

To buy Aber Falls Single Malt Autumn 2021 release click here

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New Arrival of the Week: TBWC Home Nations Series

Normally for this slot we highlight one product. This week, however, we’ve got a whole raft of exciting new whiskies (and some rum) from Britain and Ireland bottled exclusively for That…

Normally for this slot we highlight one product. This week, however, we’ve got a whole raft of exciting new whiskies (and some rum) from Britain and Ireland bottled exclusively for That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It’s TBWC Home Nations Series! 

It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of whisky talent in Britain and Ireland. Obviously Scotland and Ireland are world leaders, both vying for the position as the first place whisky (or whiskey) was made. Quick aside, why don’t the Scots, the Irish, and the Americans just sit down and just agree on a spelling for ‘whisky’ so we don’t have to use tortured constructions like whisk(e)y? This has gone on too long.

Anyway! It’s not just in the old countries, England and Wales now have serious strength in depth when it comes to whisky with the English Whisky Company in Norfolk turning 15 this year and Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons turning 21 in September. These pioneers have been joined by a legion of innovative distilleries making bold, distinctive whiskies.

British & Irish Lions, but with booze

So to celebrate all this talent, That Boutique-y Whisky Company is releasing the Home Nations Series. The idea of the ‘home nations’ is inspired by rugby where England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales put aside their rivalries to play together as the British & Irish Lions, usually with magnificent effect.

Lineup- Home Nations TBWC/ TBRC

The whiskies include a six year old Penderyn from Wales, a cask strength three year old from Scotland’s Nc’Nean Distillery, and a very special 29 year old Irish single malt from an undisclosed distillery (though you can probably guess which it is.)

Meanwhile, team England fields a 12 year old from the English Whisky Company in Norfolk, a 7 year old from Adnams in Suffolk, a 3 year old single grain from the Oxford Artisan Distillery, and a 3 year old from the Cotswolds Distillery. Meanwhile we have two nearly whiskies from Circumstance in Bristol and White Peak in Derbyshire

There’s rum too!

But that’s not all! The Home Nations series includes three rums: a 17 month rum from Ninefold in Scotland, an 18 month rum from Greensand from Kent ,and a 2 year old from J. Gow on Orkney! Plus a selection of rare single malt Scotch whiskies bottled exclusively for That Boutique-y Whisky Company – see the full range here.

I’ve pulled out three that I particularly liked below. These are largely single barrels and bottled at cask strength or high ABV. All come in 50cl bottles. Numbers are extremely limited so hurry, catch the home nations while you can.

Circumstance TBWC

Circumstance 40 Days Old Batch 1

Type: Wheat spirit

Cask types: Matured in a drum with charred English oak spindles

ABV: 59.8% 

We visited this distillery a couple of years ago and were amazed by the innovations going on with yeasts, fermentation times and, most of all, ageing. This shows how you can get masses of flavour into a young spirit without it tasting over-worked. Extremely clever.

Nose: Super sweet, chocolate digestives and ginger nuts. It’s like a party in the biscuit aisle at Sainsbury’s!

Palate: Sweet toffee and chocolate and then spicy. Really really spicy with black pepper, chilli and bitter minty notes – like Fernet Branca. Some massive spicy wood action happening here.  

Finish: Spices go on and on, seriously intense!

English Whisky Co B3

English Whisky Company 12 Year Old Batch 3

Type: Single malt

Cask: first-fill bourbon

ABV: 63.4%

Wow! This is a mighty dram. This English whisky pioneer just keeps getting better and better. Can you imagine how excited we are to try a 15, an 18 or even a 21 from this distillery?

Nose: Toffee, chocolate, dried fruit, vanilla and creamy cereal notes, water brings out sweeter notes and peachy fruit.

Palate: Big spice, wood tannin, dark chocolate, savoury, and bitter coffee with a full texture like chestnuts. Water brings out aromatic tobacco notes, and with time a distinct apricot taste emerges. 

Finish: Layered and very complex, that apricot note goes on for a good ten minutes.  

Penderyn TBWC

Penderyn 6 Year Old Batch 1

Type: Single malt

ABV: 50% 

Cask type: This is from a single STR red wine hogshead.

Distilled in Penderyn’s unique Faraday still – like a cross between a pot and a column (read more about it here). It’s been a while since I’ve had Penderyn, this bottling shows how beautiful it is at a higher strength. 

Nose: Sweet cereal notes with apples, caramel, butter and toffee.  

Palate: Creamy marzipan texture, there’s a gentle sweetness with baking spices like cinnamon and creamy patisserie notes with orchard fruit. Lovely balance, no water needed here.

Finish: Gentle sweetness and spice. 

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Five minutes… with Stephen Davies CEO of Penderyn

As Welsh whisky pioneers Penderyn opens its second distillery in Llandudno, we talk to founder Stephen Davies CEO of Penderyn about inventing a category, last year’s Jim Murray row, and…

As Welsh whisky pioneers Penderyn opens its second distillery in Llandudno, we talk to founder Stephen Davies CEO of Penderyn about inventing a category, last year’s Jim Murray row, and why Wales is the New Zealand of the Northern Hemisphere.

It can sometimes be a frustrating business interviewing people in the drinks industry. Everyone today is so media trained. We’re looking for interesting stories, but brands want you to write the PR line. It’s not just the big boys, often smaller distillers have this corporate attitude too.

Well, there was none of this with Stephen Davies CEO of Penderyn, the pioneers of Welsh whisky. He’s a man who speaks his mind which makes him great company even down-the-line via Zoom.

The occasion was the opening of a £5 million new Penderyn distillery in North Wales, housed in an old Board School in Llandudno, and there’s another on the way in Swansea next year. Combine that with the high profile launch of Aber Falls’ first single malt earlier this year plus Dà Mhìle, Coles, and the Welsh Wind, and you have a thriving the Welsh whisky scene.

Stephen Davies

Stephen Davies next to a pot still at Penderyn’s original distillery in the Brecon Beacons

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus

Things were very different in 2000, when Stephen Davies was looking to start a distillery producing whisky in Wales. There hadn’t been such a thing since nineteenth apart from one rogue operation in the Brecon Beacons that was repackaging Scotch as Welsh whisky before running afoul of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). Which destroyed the credibility of anyone trying to make Welsh whisky, according to Davies.

People thought the idea of a Welsh whisky was a real nonsense!” Davies said. He continued: “in 2004 and 2005 [when Penderyn was releasing its first whiskies], it was one of the worst ideas you know you could think of!” But through sheer determination or bloody mindedness, Davies managed to get his idea off the ground.

But it wasn’t just Welsh whisky that seemed like a pipe dream. 20 years ago is a lifetime in whisky. This is pre-English whisky, pre-Taiwanese whisky and Australian whisky was just a rumour from Tasmania. And among the major powers, Japanese whisky was still only really appreciated in Japan, there were only three distilleries in Ireland, and high quality aged bourbon and rye could be picked up in America for a song. For many, quality whisky meant Scotch.

Early days

Penderyn was founded in 2000, and straightaway the team was determined to do things a little differently. They use something called a Faraday still which is like a cross between a pot and a column still. It works in batches, like a pot, but comes off at a high ABV, between 88-92%, to produce a light fruity new make. 

One of the investors, Nigel Short, insisted on doing “due diligence on the spirit”, as Davies explained: “the feedback he had had on the Penderyn spirit from a senior figure in the Scotch whisky industry was ‘this is a really fantastic spirit, this is really, really good but the idea of Welsh whisky is a bit rubbish!’”

Jim Swan

Jim Swan was instrumental in setting up the Penderyn style

The Jim Swan legacy

But this perception began to change thanks to Jim Swan who came on board as master blender in 2002. Swan developed the Penderyn style based on this fruity new make combined with bourbon barrels, mostly from Buffalo Trace, and a Madeira cask finish. Plus, Davies said: “He instilled in our people an attention to detail that you actually see in all the Jim Swan distilleries.”

“The other thing he did to build credibility,” Davies Continued, “I travelled the world with Jim between 2005 and 2012. Right up until his death [in 2017] he was a non-exec director of Penderyn so he was with us all the way. Jim would be very happy to put a Penderyn branded shirt on and talk to people about the product.”

Having Swan onboard meant that people began taking Penderyn seriously. Davies has very fond memories of working with Swan: “We would be in Chicago and it would be midnight and I’d say ‘right are we going to bed?’ and he’d say ‘no there’s a jazz club down the road, let’s go and have a few beers’. And then he’d be telling you all stuff about the industry, you’d be learning. So it was a wonderful apprenticeship, you know, not just for me but for, I think a number of people in our team.” It was Swan who recruited the current distilling team of Laura Davies, Aista Jukneviciute, and Bethan Morgans. 

The other Jim

There is another Jim who helped put Penderyn on the map, whose name isn’t as revered as Swan, Jim Murray. Unlike others in the industry, Davies does not try to play down Murray’s connection to the distillery. “Jim wrote very very positively, he’s always done about Penderyn, and those things absolutely helped us to get attention,” he said.

Davies was uncomfortable about how the Penderyn staff were brought into last year’s row when a journalist, Becky Paskin, accused Murray of sexism. “She’s never spoken to me or any of my distilling team but decided to take offence on our behalf,” he said. 

According to Davies, Murray even called up to check that he hadn’t offended any of the all-female distilling team and they assured him that he hadn’t. Davies added: “He’s the only whisky journalist who has come to Penderyn year after year, tasted the product, got to know it, and could speak with authority on it.” 

Penderyn Llandudno

Inside Penderyn Llandudno, the Faraday still is on the right

New whiskies and new distilleries

Since the early days fighting for credibility, the distillery has come a long way. In 2013, on Swan’s advice they installed a couple of pot stills in addition to another Faraday still. This produces small quantities of heavy new make which is used in some bottlings. “We could do with them being a bit fuller bodied,” Davies said. They don’t do this for all whiskies and Davies wanted to keep which ones contain pot still a “trade secret”. But he would tell me that the award-winning (double gold in San Francisco, no less) Penderyn Peated contains about 10-15% pot still.

Penderyn Peated gets its smoky flavour from Islay whisky casks but, at the new £5 million distillery at Llandudno, the team will be making a peated new make. They didn’t know how this would work in a Faraday still so they had a peated wash made for them at the English Whisky Company in Norfolk and ran some trials which proved successful. “With the Faraday still we’re learning all the time,” he said.

We won’t get to taste the results for around five years. “In 2003 there was a fair old pressure to get it out fairly early. I don’t think we’re going to be under that kind of pressure with Llandudno because we’ve got a lot of product on the market,” Davies explained.

Next year Penderyn will be opening a third distillery in Swansea in the former Hafod Morfa copperworks. In addition to the old site, “we’re building a three-storey visitor centre by the side of it. And there’s also the old copper rolling mill building which we’re going to put the barrels in.” 

At the moment the plan is to put one Faraday still in, but Davies has other ideas. “I think we’re going to increase that production capacity as well, which I have not told anybody else yet! So this is fairly new, but we’re looking to scale-up production there from what we originally had planned to do.”

Selling Wales

Both the two new sites will be geared up to receive a substantial number of visitors. The current distillery gets around 40,000 tourists a year but, Davies said: “I think we’ll get a lot more visitors in Llandudno and in Swansea just because the communication links are a lot better.”

Davies is keen for Welsh whisky to get a GI (geographical indication) now that there are other producers with whisky to sell. There’s a great variation in the kinds of stills used so he sees it at the moment as a guarantee of origin rather than a particular style. “You want it to be fermented, distilled, matured, and bottled in Wales, all of the things that I think you’d expect to see in the GI. But I think the challenge then is finding the uniqueness.”

Davies is also involved with marketing Wales in general which is not without its difficulties. “People have not heard of Wales, in the way that they’ve heard of Scotland or Ireland,” Davies said: “unless the country plays rugby.”  He tells a story about a man at a whisky show who kept on referring to Penderyn as ‘Scotch’ and then asked “Wales, that’s an island off Scotland?’” 

So there’s a long way to go.The idea is to market Wales as the New Zealand of the Northern Hemisphere because of the similarity between the two nations with their rugby, sheep, and nascent whisky industries. “We’ve got at least as many sheep as they’ve got in New Zealand!” he joked.

Penderyn Llandudno

Penderyn Llandudno is ready to receive visitors – look at that polished parquet!

Celebrating 21 years of Welsh Whisky

Closer to home, Davies is involved with a campaign called Hiraeth Live. He explained: “‘hiraeth’ is a lovely Welsh word, which means ‘a longing for home’, almost like you want to come home, it’s like a homesickness, but you long for a homeland that may not be there anymore. It’s kind of a belonging feeling.” The campaign raises money for Hafal, a Welsh mental illness charity, and Llamau, which works with the homeless in Wales.

Next month, there will be a special Hiraeth ‘Icons of Wales’ bottling with the proceeds going to charity. Unusually, this will largely be made up from seven-year-old pot still, “which we’ve never done before,” Davies said, blended with some lighter whisky from the Faraday stills. 

But that’s not all. This September Penderyn will be celebrating its 21st birthday in the time-honoured way, by releasing a special whisky. It will be a single cask whisky, one of the first distilled at the distillery, so will be around 20 years old. 

What better way to celebrate a distillery that has been proudly flying the flag for Welsh whisky for 21 years, even when everyone thought they were mad.

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Take a VR tour of Aber Falls Distillery with MoM!

Take a look inside North Wales’ first whisky distillery in a century thanks to our swanky VR tour of Aber Falls Distillery. Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it…

Take a look inside North Wales’ first whisky distillery in a century thanks to our swanky VR tour of Aber Falls Distillery.

Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good distillery tour. How is this possible? Thanks to the power of VR, of course. In this series we’re going to take you around some of the finest distilleries across England, Wales and Scotland from the comfort of your own home. We head to Wales this week to check out a distillery that makes plenty of delicious white spirits and is in the process of creating its first Welsh whiskies. Enjoy!

One of only four distilleries in Wales, and the first in North Wales since the early 1900s, Aber Falls takes its name from the nearby famous Aber Falls waterfall, at the gateway of the Snowdonia National Park. Distillation, ageing and bottling of spirits all occur on-site, in a 6,000-square-meter building that dates back to the 19th century. Aber Falls prioritises the importance of local identity and traditional craft, working with local farmers to source Welsh malted barley and exclusively using fresh Welsh water. Distillation occurs in large copper stills, a 5,000-litre wash still and a 3,600-litre spirit still. Aber Falls whisky is expected to arrive in 2020, so keep an eye out!

VR tour of Aber Falls Distillery

If you’re intrigued about all things Aber Falls, you’ll be pleased to know we can deliver a bottle(s) or a dram(s) to your very doorstep. We recommend Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin, which is so good you’ll have to resist dipping your toast in it. I failed this particular temptation. And have no regrets #toastyourtoast. 

Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin Tasting Note: 

Fresh orange juice, with a punchy kick of dried juniper. A bit pithy at points.

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More adventures at Penderyn Distillery!

We’ve already given you one fabulously filmed tour of Penderyn Distillery, but the fun doesn’t stop there. We’ve got even more exclusive video footage to be enjoyed right here… Remember…

We’ve already given you one fabulously filmed tour of Penderyn Distillery, but the fun doesn’t stop there. We’ve got even more exclusive video footage to be enjoyed right here…

Remember last week, when we got to see how Penderyn makes all of that lovely Welsh whisky? That was wonderful. But there’s still more to see. In this series of exclusive videos filmed at Penderyn, we talk more whisky, as well as learning all about its interesting history and we see what’s next for this pioneering distillery.

Penderyn may be a young brand in distillery terms and the first in Wales for over a century, but the Welsh whisky makers still have a fascinating history.

Distillery manager Laura Davis join us to discuss the Penderyn Gold Range, which includes its flagship Madeira-finished single malt whisky.

How does Penderyn celebrate historic Welsh events and champion significant Welsh citizens? With fabulous whisky, of course! Jon Tregenna, media manager, talks us through the Icons of Wales range here.

What’s next for Penderyn? New whisky distilleries and visitor centres. Peated expressions. World domination. It’s all in this wonderful video!

Penderyn Distillery

Be sure to visit and check out the distillery for yourself!

That’s all from us and Penderyn, folks! Don’t forget, you can visit the Welsh whisky distillery all year round.

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Join us on our Penderyn adventure!

Recently we ventured west, to the land of dragons, daffodils and unpronounceable towns because we wanted to a look inside Penderyn Distillery. Enjoy the footage! Welcome to Penderyn Distillery! Earlier…

Recently we ventured west, to the land of dragons, daffodils and unpronounceable towns because we wanted to a look inside Penderyn Distillery. Enjoy the footage!

Welcome to Penderyn Distillery! Earlier this year we visited the first commercial whisky distillery in Wales for a century to find out how it makes its delightful whisky, what the future holds and more. Located in the rather beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, Penderyn has been distilling since September 2000, helping to put the Welsh whisky category back on the map. Over the course of the next five videos, we break down the story of how Penderyn whisky is made, from milling to maturation, with the help of our wonderful host Mike Wheeler, Penderyn brand ambassador. Enjoy!

Our first stop brings us to milling. Wheeler features to talk us through how the distillery processes the 28 tonnes of malted barley that is brought to the distillery every seven to ten days!

It’s tun time! Penderyn has only mashed its own barley on-site since 2013, so it’s quite proud of its mash tun, as well as its shiny stainless steel washbacks.

Onto the stillhouse! Penderyn’s unique Faraday stills are a notable highlight, as Wheeler breaks down the Welsh brand’s distillation process.

There is a lot of delicious whisky maturing in Penderyn’s warehouse right now in a wide variety of casks. Wheeler and blender Aista Jukneviciute talk us through the impressive stock here.

High-quality water is essential to make high-quality whisky according to Wheeler in this video, who talks about the distillery’s ideal location in waterfall country…

Penderyn

The distillery leads the burgeoning Welsh whisky category

So, there you have it. Be sure to join us again for more Penderyn-based fun next week…

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Celebrate St. David’s Day with wonderful Welsh tipples

St. David’s Day is a day of celebration of both St David’s life and of the Welsh culture, so why not enjoy the festivities this year with a wonderfully Welsh…

St. David’s Day is a day of celebration of both St David’s life and of the Welsh culture, so why not enjoy the festivities this year with a wonderfully Welsh tipple?

March 1st isn’t just the first day of spring, but a very special day in the Welsh calendar – St. David’s Day, of course! To some it might be the country of daffodils, unpronounceable towns and Sir Tom Jones, but to us here at MoM Towers, we see a land with a long and notable history of alcohol production and a modern industry that is currently booming. Whether it’s craft beer, climate-defying wines, sublime gins or the emerging array of fab Welsh whiskies, there really is something for everyone.

St. David’s Day is the perfect time of year to check out the results for yourself. Whether you’re a non-Welsh person looking for something new or a Welsh native that wants to champion and reconnect with their roots, you can toast the country’s national day with a local tipple. Cooking up a feast of leek dishes accompanied by lamb, mutton and Welsh cake isn’t the only way to mark the occasion. Take a leek look (sorry) at these delectable St. David’s Day drinks that we’ve selected to celebrate the patron saint of Wales.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus*, everyone!

Cygnet Gin

The first tipple on our list hails from Swansea and was created by master distiller and Cygnet Distillery director Dai Wakely, in what he described as “the only live micro gin distillery in Wales”. The botanica list includes juniper, lemon peel, lime peel, pink grapefruit peel, orange peel, liquorice root, orris root, coriander seed, angelica root, cardamom seed, almond and chamomile.

What does it taste like?:

Floral at first, with chamomile playing a big part on the nose. Fresh citrus peel give it a vibrant palate, joined by a bite of juniper and coriander spice.

Saintly serve: The Red Dragon

A fantastically fun and fruity tribute to the Welsh emblem and pride of the Welsh flag, The Red Dragon is a punchy, patriotic serve that’s incredibly easy to make. To create, simply add 30ml of Cygnet Gin, 30ml of Grand Marnier, 25ml blood orange juice, 25ml lemon juice and 3ml grenadine in a chilled glass together with ice. Shake well and then strain the mix into a chilled glass. Garnishing with an orange peel and belt out a resounding edition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau should you be so inclined.

Barti Ddu Spiced

Inspired by famous Pembrokeshire Pirate, ‘Barti Ddu’, (or ‘Black Bart’ in English), The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company crafted this spirit using a blend of Caribbean rums spiced with notes of vanilla, cloves and orange and one special, appropriately patriotic ingredient: Pembrokeshire laver seaweed, also known as Welshman’s caviar.

What does it taste like?:

Warm, rich baking spices, marmalade, toffee apples, red cola cubes, vanilla and a wave of coastal saltiness.

Saintly serve: Pistol Proof

Who doesn’t love the modern classic that is the Espresso Martini? This Barti Ddu take on the serve is designed to make you ‘Pistol Proof’, something Barti Ddu himself was known for. To create, put 30ml of Barti Ddu Spiced, 35ml of St. George Nola Coffee Liqueur, 25ml of Reyka Vodka, 25ml of sugar syrup and lastly 25ml of fresh espresso into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds before straining into chilled Martini glasses (20 minutes in the freezer should do it). Dust with nutmeg, then try to avoid any terrible pirate impressions as you serve.

Penderyn Portwood

Penderyn managed to forge itself quite a reputation for producing some mighty fine single Port cask releases, so it was only a matter of time before the Welsh distillery created a single malt bottling for its core range. The whisky, which was initially matured in ex-bourbon casks and then in Portwood casks, received recognition in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2018 with a Liquid Gold Award.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet, jammy and creamy with some toffee, rich fruit, plum wine, sweet goji berries and wood spice.

Saintly serve: Iechyd Da

A toast to good health, the Iechyd Da is a simple but effective way to make great use of this delicious Welsh whisky. To create, simply pour 50ml of Penderyn Portwood, a bar spoon of Welsh honey, 10ml blood orange juice, 2 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters and ice into a tumblr. Stir vigorously and garnish with a twist of orange peel. Serve and try to pronounce ‘Iechyd Da’ correctly (yeah-ch-id dah).

Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin

Aber Falls is North Wales’ first whisky distillery in over 100 years and we’re big fans, as you can probably tell from this blog post. While whisky stocks mature the brand has released a slew of seriously tasty liqueurs and flavoured gins such as the Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin, which may well be as good on toast as it is in a Citrus Fizz…

What does it taste like?:

Fresh orange juice, with a punchy kick of dried juniper. A bit pithy at points.

Saintly serve: Citrus Fizz

We decided to go with the Citrus Fizz here and not toast for reasons we’re sure you’ll understand. This cocktail is as refreshing as it gets and it couldn’t be simpler to create. In a chilled glass add 25ml of Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin, 50ml of dry white wine (something like Isabel Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017), 75ml of soda water and plenty of cubed ice. Stir well and then garnish with orange zest. Serve and figure out how to actually pair gin and toast together later.

Penderyn Legend

If you want to toast the patron saint of Wales with a great Welsh whisky, then one with the red dragon proudly adoringin the label seems a sensible choice. Penderyn Legend is another rather tasty Welsh single malt whisky from the brand, who matured this spirit in bourbon barrels and finished it in ex-Madeira casks. It’s received a slew of awards, including Gold at in the European Single Malt – Premium category at The World Whisky Masters (The Spirits Business) in 2018.

What does it taste like?:

Rich and well-balanced, with dried fruit, dark chocolate, green apples, cream fudge and vanilla.

Saintly serve: Dewi Sant

This recipe was actually created as part of a St David’s Day celebratory menu in Donovan Bar, London by bar manager Armand Wysocki. All you need to do to create your own interpretation is add 50ml of Penderyn Legend, 25ml of Noilly Prat Original Dry, a dash of Angostura Orange Bitters and a dash of sugar into a Martini glass and stir well. Garnish with a lemon twist and raise a glass to Dewi Sant (St. David)!

Hibernation Gin

From Dyfi Distillery comes the delicious Hibernation Gin, which was crafted with some fantastic foraged ingredients including bilberries, crab apples and blackberries. Post-distillation the gin spends time maturing in white Port casks from the legendary Port house Niepoort.

What does it taste like?:

Gloriously bright and fruit-forward, with fresh white grapes and green apple, tempered by oily juniper and Alpine herbs. Slowly develops a subtly oak-y warmth on the mid-palate.

Saintly serve: Negroni

Add a dose of hearty Welshness to this Italian classic by combining 25ml of Hibernation Gin, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso vermouth together in a cocktail shaker. Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel, grate some fresh ginger on top and serve alongside a wholesome helping of cawl.

Dà Mhìle Apple Brandy

Dà Mhìle is another very impressive Welsh distillery with a range of interesting products, including this organic Apple Brandy. It’s crafted using wild apples from the brand’s own farm and nearby valleys, which were first made into cider and then quadruple distilled. The spirit was then matured for a year in barrels which has previously held French red wine.

What does it taste like?:

Sharp and sweet apple, brown sugar, butterscotch and a little oak spice.

Saintly serve: The Apple Old Fashioned

The Old-Fashioned gets a gloriously autumnal makeover here in this tasty serve. To make, start by stirring together a teaspoon of maple syrup with a few good dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters in an old-fashioned glass. Then add ice and 80ml of Dà Mhìle Apple Brandy. Garnish with a wedge of green apple and serve.

Brecon Special Reserve Gin

Penderyn don’t just make fine whisky, but delicious gin as well! Brecon Special Reserve Gin was distilled with a host of botanicals sourced from all over the world, such as juniper from Macedonia, orange peel from Spain, Chinese cassia bark, Sri Lankan liquorice, Madagascan cinnamon, French angelica root, Russian coriander, Indian nutmeg, Spanish lemon peel and Italian orris root. Very impressive stuff indeed.

What does it taste like?:

Juniper, warm citrus, coriander and hints of spicy cinnamon.

Saintly serve: Smoky Welsh Martini

Martinis are such a versatile and tasty serve. This edition adds a little smokiness via a tasty Welsh whisky. To make, you just need to pour 75ml of Brecon Special Reserve Gin and 5ml Penderyn Peated Whisky into a Martini glass filled with ice. Stir well and then garnish with a fresh lemon peel, or a bit of leek if you’re feeling particularly patriotic/brave.

 

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Building Brand Wales at Aber Falls Distillery!

We took a trip to Aber Falls to discover North Wales’ first whisky distillery in over 100 years – and found incredible landscapes, a deep-rooted passion for the region, and…

We took a trip to Aber Falls to discover North Wales’ first whisky distillery in over 100 years – and found incredible landscapes, a deep-rooted passion for the region, and an abundance of delicious gins along the way, too!

“Look at Japan, what they’ve done. Welsh whisky could really come forward with a bit of a similar model to those guys,” James Wright, Aber Falls managing director, is not lacking in ambition. It’s a bold claim, especially when you consider the international following that Japanese whisky has. Such is the demand that age statements are now a rare and very expensive thing. Could Welsh whisky ever really reach such heights?

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The Nightcap: 31 August

Happy Friday, folks! Here’s The Nightcap to help you roll on into the weekend armed with a plethora of booze news. Always handy if you’re looking to impress down the…

Happy Friday, folks! Here’s The Nightcap to help you roll on into the weekend armed with a plethora of booze news. Always handy if you’re looking to impress down the pub/on a hot date/out in a bar*…

Welcome to the weekend, team! Step away from the workload and pick up a dram. You deserve it. Friday evening is here! (Apologies as always if you’re a non-nine-to-fiver and are indeed working at the weekend… join the vibe when you can.)

It’s been a short week here at MoM Towers thanks to the summer bank holiday Monday. But that hasn’t stopped us bringing you all manner of news over on the blog this week.

On Tuesday we unveiled our latest competition of much excitement – win a VIP trip to Speyside and discover The BenRiach Distillery! Then on Wednesday we got hold of Pernod Ricard’s annual report and crunched the numbers to see how the likes of Jameson, The Glenlivet and Chivas Regal performed over the last year.

Yesterday we had a blog double whammy: Annie talked us through all things aquavit in her beginner’s guide, before we shed a little bit more light onto Diageo’s Special Releases 2018 line-up. Not long until the full reveal: check back on 12 September for details of all 10 bottlings in full.

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