While many people assume Scotland is the leading exporter of great-tasting single malts and whisky the world over, it’s a bit further down the UK where things are really starting to stir up interest with spirits lovers. Penderyn, South Wales’ own global whisky goliath, is right at the forefront of an explosion of interest.
According to recent reports on whisky sales worldwide, the spirits market is growing at an exponential rate. The industry is set to be worth almost US$96 billion by 2026, and it’s largely thanks to international names in distilling making a big splash in the past few years.
That’s a market growth of around 6.4%, year on year, heading into the middle of the decade. It’s increasingly clear that we need to look closer to home – Wales, in particular – to find some of the most increasingly popular whisky bottlings and brands.
Penderyn, an award-winning distillery based up in the Brecon Beacons, is leading the charge. Across the past two years, Stephen Davies’ firm has picked up a raft of awards from international tasting bodies, including a Double Gold for their Peated Single Malt at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“It’s been a whirlwind few years for all of us here at Penderyn,” says Davies. “Despite the global challenges we’ve all been facing especially this past 12 months, we’re enormously thrilled to still be delighting so many whisky lovers and experts the world over.”
Penderyn is certainly helping to place Wales on the world whisky map, with awards and appraisals coming from all corners. The Brecon Beacons based Distillery made huge waves at the Spirits Business World Whisky Masters in 2020, claiming five Gold awards for its Madeira, Peated, Celt, Myth and Moscatel Small Batch bottlings.
Their Portwood bottlings have also really claimed the tastebuds of spirits fans the world over, with the bottling scoring big at the IWSC and the Whiskies of the World competitions in recent times.
Whisky sales appear to be steady despite major changes in global ‘normality’ as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Penderyn has successfully pivoted to online sales as well as virtual tastings, meaning fans of the brand can continue to enjoy their bottlings from the safety of home.
“It’s important to keep moving forward regardless of global challenges,” Davies says. “We’re extremely fortunate to be in a position where our customers can buy and enjoy our spirits safely at home. Our continued success via international competitions have also really helped us to stay in the forefront of people’s minds.”
“Post-pandemic, we will be looking at new, creative ways to reach out to our audiences. Of course, given the huge success of our virtual tours and tastings over the course of the past 12 months, we have every intention to keep this side of our business running, too!”
While big players in the international whisky scene – such as Johnny Walker, Diageo and Jack Daniel’s – continue to drive bulk interest in the spirit, it is names such as Davies’ firm which are, unarguably, helping to keep things particularly interesting for single malt lovers the world over.
“Who knows where we’ll be in five years’ time,” says Davies. “The only way is up – and we’ve no intention of resting on our laurels.”
“Big favourites such as the Portwood, the Madeira and the Rich Oak are sticking around for good. But what kind of distillery would we be to our fans if we didn’t innovate every once in a while?”