Welsh single malt whisky has been granted a geographical indication (GI) by the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), ensuring legal protection for the style.
A group of four Welsh distillers submitted the GI application for Welsh whisky (or 'Wisgi Cymreig' in Welsh) to Defra in August 2021 in recognition of the growing popularity of whisky, and whisky distilling, in the country.
It stipulates the use of malted barley and water that are of 100 per cent Welsh origin, and that each stage of the production process from mashing to bottling must take place in Wales. The "lightness of character" typical in Welsh single malt whiskies produced to date was also noted in the application.
The application's approval makes Welsh single malt whisky the first Welsh spirit to hold the protected status.
Among the distilleries who helped put together the GI application is Penderyn, the first of the modern wave of Welsh whisky distilleries and currently the largest. It is due to open its third production site – and Wales' eighth whisky distillery – in the next few weeks.
Stephen Davies, CEO of Penderyn Whisky, said the achievement of the GI was a significant milestone for the Welsh whisky industry. “It assists in safe guarding 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 last 20 years," he said.
Another producer involved in drawing up the application was In the Welsh Wind Distillery near Cardigan. Opened in 2018, the distillery uses 100 per cent local barley to produce its new make, which it malts and mills on-site.
Ellen Wakelam, distillery co-owner and director, said the announcement recognised the hard work put in by the distilleries involved in creating the application. "Not only does it place single malt Welsh whisky within the wider Welsh GI family of iconic products, giving consumers an understanding of the provenance and integrity of the product they are buying, it contributes to food tourism and Welsh food heritage, both of which are incredibly important to Wales," she said.
Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh government minister for rural affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, said: “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, ensuring this fantastic product gains the recognition and prestige it deserves.”
The UK government's Welsh secretary David T. C. Davies added: “Wales has a growing reputation for producing high-quality food and drink and I’m delighted that Welsh whisky has now been recognised as deserving of this special status."