Penderyn chief executive Stephen Davies on resurrecting Welsh whisky

“I would say that Penderyn doesn’t lean heavily on tradition. We’re quite an innovative brand in terms of malt whisky because of the Penderyn Faraday still that we use.”

Davies credits a lot of Penderyn’s distinct style to the single copper-pot Faraday still. Designed by Dr David Faraday - a descendent of the father of electricity, Michael Faraday - it produces a pure and strong spirit, lighter and less oily than traditional Scotch, and as Davies points out, “we didn’t ever want people to think that we were copying Scotch whisky.”

The Llandudno facility in itself is striking, from the old stone school building is now extends a glass atrium, blending heritage and modernity in much the same way as the brand it houses.

The Swansea site too will reimagine a historic building, the Hafod Morfa copperworks, a building that according to Davies hasn’t had a roof since the 1980s, when a fire broke out in the building after locals kids broke in and had a rave.

The plan is to install a distillery in the main building next to a three-storey visitor centre. Given the facility’s location, next to Swansea’s Liberty Stadium, it’s perfect for visitors.

“We’ll never move from the Brecon Beacons, this is our home here but both new sites will benefit from better communication links, better local transport, I think we should see more activity. We have the football, the rugby, there’s a lot of opportunity for corporate hospitality on both sites. On all three sites, you’ll be able to buy the full range of what we can produce. The opportunity to sample more of the limited bottlings and casks tends to attract a lot of people.”

“[The Swansea site] will complete our footprint in Wales. It will be a productive, working site too, and we’ll look at doing other types of whiskies, and not necessarily single malts, we might look at other grains as well.”

As a new milestone is reached by the distillery, Davies is demonstrative in his praise for those who helped to establish Penderyn as the brand it has become, and no one was more fundamental than whisky guru Dr Jim Swan.

A legendary whisky consultant who sadly passed in 2017, Dr Jim Swan was dubbed the ‘Einstein of Whisky’ and his legacy is far-reaching having helped to establish the Kavalan distillery in Taiwan, Amrut in India, Victoria Caledonian Canada, Milk & Honey in Israel, as well as many more in Scotland, Ireland and England. His influence is such that Davies believes that some of the recent success of the world whisky category can be attributed to him.

“Working with Dr Jim Swan, gave me a very solid education over a number of years about the detail. One thing you find at any distillery that worked with Dr Swan is that they have a really good level of attention to detail at all parts of the process. Working with Jim, I quickly managed to get my mind around that. We worked with him for 15 years on our board of directors and I don’t think we would’ve achieved our success without him.

“There’s been a recognition of world whisky, whiskies from Wales, England, Sweden, Taiwan, and Penderyn was the first of those. Now we’ve been around for 21 years, people are starting to pay attention. I don’t think it’s to do with the pandemic, I think it’s due to the success of the world whisky category, even Diageo is now promoting the category to the wider public and that’s been great for us.

“When I came in 2004, they’d been making whisky for a few years, I came in with an enthusiastic appreciation which I gained a bit from my father and a bit from appreciating whiskies over the years. I’ve been very lucky to work with some exceptional people.”