What better day than St David's Day to take a look at Wales's newest whisky distillery – the first in the north of the country for a century.
It’s funny how the four countries which make up Britain have changed over the years. England, for example, now produces sparkling wine which rivals Champagne. There’s a man in Scotland who has started a tea plantation. Northern Ireland holds the balance of power, both in the Houses of Parliament and in the most important trade and political negotiations in half a century. And Wales has started producing whisky.
The word ‘producing’ might be jumping the gun somewhat, but the Principality’s new distillery in Snowdonia has opened up and, in several years’ time, will be producing a drink which is inextricably linked in the national consciousness to Scotland.
Located in Abergwyngregyn – the sort of place name which makes us glad to be writing work online rather than working in radio – the distillery has been named ‘Aberfalls‘, after the famously-picturesque waterfall nearby.
The owners claim that it’s the first new distillery in north Wales for over a century, though further south there are several other distilleries which have sprung up in the last couple of decades, reviving a drink that was made in the country for centuries before the Welsh whisky industry largely died out in the 19th century.
James Wright, the man in charge of this new venture, is making sure that only local Welsh barley is being used in the production, meaning that this will be a truly Welsh single malt once it’s ready to come off the production line.
“We are very excited to have resurrected the proud tradition of distilling in North Wales, following a 100 year absence,” he says. “Our team of distillers, all of whom are local to Aber Falls, are extremely passionate about the new distillery.”
A visitor centre at Aberfalls will open up later in the year – and given that it’s roughly half-way between Bangor and Conwy, we can imagine a fair bit of tourist traffic dropping in. Not that they’ll be able to buy whisky, of course: the drink takes years to mature. In the meantime, Aberfalls have been plugging the gap by producing a range of gins and liqueurs – the orange marmalade gin is about as ideal a cocktail mixer as you could imagine, while the salted caramel liqueur is irresistible.
The first batch of the good stuff will be ready in 2020, though it’ll likely be several more years after that before they’re bottling anything to interest connoisseurs, for whom even eight-year-old whiskies tend to be regarded as hopelessly immature. But given the geography of the place – this rugged coastline is reminiscent of nowhere if not the west of Scotland – and the nice historical ties, we’d imagine that plenty of those whisky-lovers will be happy to wait for an intriguing new tipple.
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