Penderyn sets up distribution arm after ending arrangement with Halewood

Welsh whisky producer Penderyn is ending its distribution arrangement with Halewood and setting up its own in-house supply business.

The award-winning distiller has tied up deals to import whisky from Milk & Honey in Israel and Amorik in France.

It will present those whiskies to the UK trade alongside its own brands, and it plans to build up the portfolio in future.

Chief executive Stephen Davies told Drinks International: “We started working with Halewood a couple of years ago, and it didn’t quite hit the target for them or for us. They were probably more interested in a certain part of our portfolio, whereas we want to do the whole thing.

“We will still work with Halewood on other projects, for sure, because we have some common interests. We parted on good terms, but we felt we needed to take matters into our own hands.

“I think we are the best of the independent distilleries around, and we wanted to showcase that, and bring in a few of the best independent whiskies from outside of the UK, and see if we can build a network from there.”

Amorik is based in Brittany, while Milk & Honey is Israel’s first whisky distillery. It also produces an oak aged gin. The common denominator between the producers is the late Dr Jim Swan, a legendary master distiller who served as an adviser to all three of them.

The all-female distilling and blending team at Penderyn enjoyed a six-year apprenticeship with Swan, and he was also integral to setting up Amorik and Milk & Honey.

Davies said: “All three distilleries have an incredible attention to detail. When we started Penderyn, there hadn’t been whisky in Wales for a hundred years, so we needed some help.

“Our team had a six-year apprenticeship with Jim, and they learned that attention to detail throughout the process of distillation and maturation. You see that in other distilleries that Jim worked with, so we have that common ground.

“We see an opportunity to promote whiskies from outside of Scotland and Ireland, and showcase what we can do. We felt they were a good fit.”

Penderyn has gained many plaudits for its whisky in recent years. It also produces gin, vodka and cream liqueur, while it has partnered with the California-based Siddiqui Rum Corporation to produce Siddiqui rums for international markets.

It exports to 40 countries, but the UK remains its main market. It was fortunate in that the bulk of its UK business goes through the off-trade – multiple retailers are valued clients – so it has been somewhat protected from the fierce economic headwinds blowing through the industry during the age of Covid.

“We have just finished our financial year, and it could have gone a lot worse,” said Davies. “We lost a lot in export and in travel retail, but the multiple retail and online channels have made up for that.”

However, it hopes to make greater inroads into the on-trade, work with more independents and bolster its online business in future. It believes it now has a compelling proposition to take to the market, with craft spirits from Wales, Israel and France.

Many of its experienced brand ambassadors are unable to travel right now due to the pandemic, so they will train their efforts on selling the brands into the UK market. Penderyn has distributors around the world, and it could then help Amorik and Milk & Honey gain traction in those markets.

Penderyn has high hopes for Siddiqui rum in international markets too. It is producing the brown rum and white rum at its distillery in Wales. “Siddiqui is an Arabic word for ‘my friend’, but it’s also a code word for moonshine,” said Davies. “Anyone that has worked or lived in the Middle East will know Siddiqui. It’s almost like a smoky whisky, so it’s a rum with an unusual flavour profile and a strong story.

“We want to reach the rum community and rum connoisseurs and see what they think.”

Penderyn also remains on course to open a new distillery in March. “We’ve been able to keep that going during the pandemic, we haven’t fallen behind on the programme and things are looking quite promising,” said Davies.