Welsh whisky (Welsh: Wisgi Cymreig; alternative form: chwisgi) is a whisky made in Wales. Whisky has been distilled in Wales since the Middle Ages, but production died out in the late 19th century. In the 1990s attempts were made to revive the practice, resulting in the establishment of Wales’s first distillery in over one hundred years. Today Welsh whisky is represented by Penderyn.
Wales has a long history of alcohol production, but distillation came in the Middle Ages.
“The Great Welsh Warrior” Reaullt Hir is said to have distilled chwisgi from braggot brewed by the monks of Bardsey Island in AD 356. These monks then allegedly developed the art of distilling further. However this is unlikely. The name “Reaullt” is a High Medieval loanword from Anglo-Norman French, so this name would not have been used before the eleventh century.
The medieval Welsh stories of The Mabinogion mention fermentation but not distillation; the end of the “Mead Song” in a 16th-century manuscript of the sixth-century Tales of Taliesin mentions distillation, although mead is a fermented beverage.
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Manufacturing of whisky in Wales declined during the 19th century, with the commercial development of liquor discouraged by the rise of the temperance movement. The last notable distillery was established by R. J. Lloyd Price in 1887 at Frongoch. His company, the Welsh Whisky Distillery Company, was not a success and was sold in 1900 to William Owen of Bala for £5000. The company was finally liquidated in 1910.
In the 1990s entrepreneurs attempted to revive distillation in the country. The first attempts entailed bottling Scottish blends in Wales as “Welsh whisky”, but a lawsuit by Scotch distillers ended the enterprise. In 2000 the foundation of the Welsh Whisky Company (now known as Penderyn) was announced. A distillery was built at Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Production commenced in 2000 and the finished product, the first whisky commercially produced in Wales for a century, went on sale in 2004.
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