‘Grain to glass’ distiller hopes to put Wales on world’s whisky map

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The barley has been grown in fields with spectacular views over Cardigan Bay and malted on a local farm. The all-important water comes from springs deep beneath the Welsh countryside.

A small distillery in west Wales is at the centre of what it hopes may turn out to be a quiet whisky revolution.

Of course, it has an awful long way to go to compete with long-established whisky giants in Scotland and Ireland but the In The Welsh Wind distillery believes it may be on to something special.

“Our idea is to create a whisky that is an expression of this land,” said co-founder Alex Jungmayr. “We are producing a whisky that is grown locally, malted locally, distilled locally. We’re very excited about it.”

Whisky is thought to have been first distilled in Wales in the Middle Ages but all but died out in the late 19th century. There has been a revival in the last few years and In The Welsh Wind, based just north-west of Cardigan, is the fifth whisky distillery to be set up in Wales during this new wave.

The brand says its USP is its “grain to glass” approach, with the whole operation taking place within a few miles of the fields where the barley is grown and using what it claims is the first Welsh whisky malting house for a century.

“Our barley doesn’t come from Europe; we haven’t had to pay a malting house in England,” said Jungmayr. “The whole process takes place right here.”

A whisky glass on the locally grown barley used to make the new whisky.

The first batch of single malt whisky has been created and people are being invited to invest in 30-litre casks. The spirit will not be ready for drinking until the end of 2023 but there has already been interest, with local people clubbing together to invest but also whisky lovers as far afield as New Zealand putting their names down.

It is a leap of faith but Jungmayr is confident the whisky will be excellent thanks to the quality of the barley, the water and the advice the distillery had taken from experts across Britain and Ireland.

Jungmayr and his partner, Ellen Wakelam, were inspired to set up their business after visiting craft distilleries in Scotland and Ireland. The couple started the venture in a cow shed, at first developing and distilling gins. They outgrew the shed, moved into a former pub on the coast road and set about producing a west Wales whisky.

Barley has historically played an important part in the life of the area, with “Barley Saturday” still celebrated every year in Cardigan.

Much of the local barley is now grown for animal feed but the hope is that if the distillery develops it will encourage more farmers to think about selling their crops for human consumption – at a higher price.

Sion Phillips, whose family farm’s barley was used for the first batch, said the prospect of a new market was being welcomed by local farmers.

“We usually produce barley for animal feed but it’s a very tight market,” said Phillips. “Farms have to diversify and it’s good to work on something different.”

Plaid Cymru politician Elin Jones, who represents Ceredigion in the Welsh parliament, said she was impressed by the company’s ambition.

“Only in their first few years of existence they’ve produced some fantastic gins and they turned a dilapidated pub into a stylish visitor destination.

“Now they are growing and distilling, and producing a 360-degree Welsh whisky. They’re putting west Wales on the gin and whisky map of the world.”

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