PENDERYN WHISKY: STEPHEN DAVIES | INTERVIEW
Stephen Davies, Chief executive at Penderyn, Wales’ premier whisky distillery, had a chat with Buzz about the distillery’s recent successes.
Can you tell us a bit about the Penderyn whisky bottle redesign?
This is our Madiera Finish single malt whiskey which first launched back in 2004. The packaging has been unchanged since 2004, but we felt it was time to refresh the brand. It’s still based on the same theme of rare and precious Welsh gold; we like that analogy with our whiskey, so there’s a gold theme on the front of the bottle which has been modernised. We launched the new bottle design at Whisky Live in Paris, one of the premier showcases for whiskey in Europe, and it was very well-received.
Penderyn has won a number of awards recently. What’s the secret behind the success?
Our aspiration is to produce world-class spirits, and people buy our products not just because we are proudly Welsh, but on the basis that they are well-produced. Every stage of the process is based on quality – buying the best barley and preparing it properly, using the best yeast, and the quality of the wood we use. It’s all about the attention to detail and the patience that is required to get every detail right.
Until Penderyn came along, there wasn’t a proper whisky distillery in Wales for a long time. Why?
Whisky making, as a tradition, wasn’t as strong in Wales as it has been in Ireland and Scotland, though there have been notable exceptions in the past – for instance Evan Williams who was originally from Pembrokeshire and is known as one of the founding fathers of the Kentucky Bourbon Industry. Because of the strong religious foundation in Wales in the past, that has been one barrier, but it is also a difficult thing bringing a distillery to life because you have to wait many years before the product has matured. As a business, whisky distilling is not always an attractive proposition. But if you can produce it and present it in the right way, you have something that can really stand up as a premium product and brand.
If you could recommend one place in Wales to someone who has never visited before, what would you pick and why?
I would choose Laugharne in West Wales. It’s a small estuary village, and one of the places where Dylan Thomas spent a large part of his time. It’s one of the most famous literary places in the UK, and the annual Laugharne Weekend arts and literary festival is held there.