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Welsh single malt whisky gains legal protection

Single malt whisky from Wales joins the ranks of Champagne and Scotch whisky by gaining official legal protection.

Wales’s single malt is the first spirit from the principality to achieve geographical indication (GI) status under the UK system introduced following Brexit.

Single malt is the 20th product from Wales to achieve GI accreditation, following in the footsteps of the protected designation of origin (PDO) for Welsh wine and the protected geographical indications (PGIs) for wine, cider and perry.

Foods that enjoy the same level of protection include traditional Welsh Caerphilly cheese, salt marsh lamb from the Gower peninsula and Welsh leeks.

Penderyn distillery revived the Welsh whisky industry in 2004 with the launch of its first single malt.

The company was joined by rival distillers Coles, Da Mhile, and In the Welsh Wind in applying to create the ‘Single Malt Welsh Whisky PGI’, which will limit the use of the phrase to products made from malted barley at individual distilleries in Wales.

Stephen Davies, chief executive at Penderyn, said: ‘The achievement of UKGI status for single malt Welsh whisky is a significant milestone for Penderyn as a producer, and also for the wider Welsh whisky industry.

‘It assists in safeguarding both the quality of the product and also its source of origin.

‘It’s an exciting step forward and one that puts focus on an industry that has been growing steadily over the [past] 20 years.’

News of the GI status comes just days after Penderyn opened its third distillery, at the Hafod Morfa copperworks in Swansea.

The £15 million distillery joins its existing plants in the Brecon Beacons and at Llandudno, which opened in 2021.

Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Government’s rural affairs minister, added: ‘It is brilliant news single malt Welsh whisky has joined the Welsh GI family with [its] name now protected.

‘The Welsh whisky industry continues to go from strength to strength, playing an important role in the food and drink sector here in Wales.

‘I am very pleased for all those involved in gaining this prestigious status and ensures this fantastic product gains the recognition and prestige it deserves.’

The Welsh Government hailed its industry’s combination of a ‘long heritage of whisky production with an innovative approach to distilling, offering a broad range of flavours and styles’.

That innovative approach includes Penderyn’s use of ‘Faraday’ stills, which incorporate column stills, alongside traditional pot stills in the Brecon Beacons and Swansea, as well as its use of peated barley in Llandudno.

The distiller focuses its maturation on bourbon barrels from Kentucky and Tennessee that have held Buffalo Trace or Evan Williams, while its finishing technique features Portuguese barriques that have held fortified Madeira wine.

Single malt Welsh whisky is expected to generate combined revenues of £23m during the current tax year through domestic, export and travel retail sales.

It’s dwarfed by the size of the Scotch whisky industry, which sold £6.2 billion of spirit last year through exports alone, marking a 37% year-on-year rise that took overseas sales through the £6bn mark for the first time.

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