Within the last decade, the Welsh gin industry has expanded massively, growing from around five distilleries in 2017 to over 30 producers today. Billy Edwards profiles six impressive names making full use of the fruitful botanicals in Wales. They demonstrate the Welsh spirit’s rude health, which shows no sign of sloe-ing down…
Barry Island Gin
Tim and Claire Whalley feature in the Amazon Prime series Business As Unusual, which documents the perils of opening a business in a post-COVID landscape. They certainly had challenges: both left their corporate jobs to set up Craft Republic on Barry Island a matter of weeks before the first lockdown, feeling the town put on a poor show for alcohol anoraks. They realised the need to have premium locally produced spirits in said bar, and so Welsh gin soon hit the shelves, versatile enough to be enjoyed with tonic and in cocktails. Distilled in the Vale Of Glamorgan, their gin features fresh citrus for an emphasis on refreshment. Find them at Cardiff’s Riverside Market, held every Sunday opposite the Principality Stadium.
Pembrokeshire Gin Company
Owned and run by Charlotte Clark, last year’s Rising Star Of The Year winner at The Wales Food & Drink Awards, this is a relatively new distillery located in the Old Market Hall in Pembroke Dock. (They also host live music events, with 17-piece sea-shanty band Old Time Sailors coming up on Fri 22 Sept.) Their Tenby Dry Gin contains four different citrus peels and a dash of rosemary to boot, and their unique bottles with embroidered labels and associated merchandise can also be found in the town in their shop on Upper Frog Street.
What do you get when an international wine merchant joins forces with his beekeeping brother? Pollination Gin is a botanical concoction from Pete and Danny Cameron’s Dyfi Distillery. Pete’s decades of foraging experience came in handy, as the Welsh gin is treated with 25 varieties of wildflowers, aromatic leaves, fruits, and conifer tips for a boost of flavour, all gathered in Wales’ only UNESCO Biosphere. It’s a complicated procedure requiring a 10-month foraging calendar when importing dried, imported botanicals is the industry norm. Awards-wise, they’ve bagged themselves the World Gin Award’s Producer Of The Year 2023.
Aber Falls Distillery
Taking their name from the Rhaeadr Fawr (the nearby picturesque waterfalls), these producers attract over 50,000 visitors a year. They sport a cornucopia of flavours, from orange marmalade to rhubarb to ginger. Their latest addition is a single malt whisky, and they often boast ‘Distiller’s Cut’ exclusive bottles that can only be bought in person onsite – where a regular market is held with local traders and crafters on the last Sunday of each month. Another potential day out is their Distillery Gin Lab, in which you are taught how to operate their equipment to put together your very own gin.
Snowdonia Spirits prides itself on a slower distilling process over weeks rather than unusual hours. Founded in 2015, it’s a smaller operation with only 100 bottles in each batch, endeavouring towards a more personal, handmade idea of spirit production. Of course, they’re keen to mine Wales’ tallest mountains, and so juniper is especially foraged from a small patch of land that they own. It took 57 attempts to perfect their Forager’s Gin, yet they hit the mark with a smooth-tasting palette cleanser. Since then, they have diversified into lemon, wild fruit and bara brith gin – yep, the Welsh tea loaf recreated in spirit form.
Dà Mhìle Distillery
An environmentally sound option for gin lovers, as their ingredients are sourced from their family-owned farm, such as felled wood to heat their still and their spring water for the all-important spirit. Upon their inception in 1999, they made headlines for producing the world’s first organic whisky and have since diversified into sloe and oak-aged gin. Their standard bottle, Organic Gin, is commended for its taste of spearmint and peppermint, but sometimes-unusual infusions aren’t off the menu either – seaweed gin, anyone? Find them in Carmarthen Indoor Market or at the regular farmers’ markets held in Aberystwyth, Mumbles, and Kidwelly.
words BILLY EDWARDS