Welsh whisky gains protected GI status under new UK scheme
Single Malt Welsh whisky has been granted protected geographical indication (GI) status, the first spirit to gain the new UK accreditation that was launched post Brexit.
Four Welsh distilleries – Penderyn, In the Welsh Wind, Da Mhile, and Coles – teamed up to push for GI status in February 2020, with the new of its success coming in time for the Royal Welsh Show, which opens today.
Although whisky was allegedly made in Wales as far back as the Middle Ages, the modern Welsh whisky industry was kick-started in 2000, when Penderyn, Wales’ oldest commercial whisky distillery, started distilling the spirit, launching in 2004. Wales now has six distilleries (including Anglesey Môn and Aber Falls) with whisky production said to generate £23m this year.
Stephen Davies, chief executive at Penderyn, which opened its third site last year, said that the achievement of UKGI status for Single Malt Welsh Whisky was “a significant milestone” both 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,” he said. “It’s an exciting step forward and one that puts focus on an industry that has been growing steadily over the last 20 years.”
Welsh Government minister for rural affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths echoed Davies, calling it “brilliant news”.
“The Welsh whisky industry continues to go from strength to strength, playing an important role in the food and drink sector here in Wales,” she said. “I am very pleased for all those involved in gaining this prestigious status and ensures that this fantastic product gains the recognition and prestige it deserves”.
The UKGI system was introduced in 2021 after the UK withdrew from the EU scheme, to ensure that certain UK foods and drinks could secure legal protection against imitation. Single Malt Welsh whisky is the twentieth product from Wales to gain protected status, which also includes Welsh wine and cider, Caerphilly Cheese, Anglesey Sea Salt PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI Welsh Lamb, PGI Welsh Beef and Welsh Leeks PGI.
Speaking to the drinks business in January 2020, James Wright of Aber Falls said that the industry would have to work hard after Brexit to make sure the Welsh whisky industry had visibility. “Collaboration will also make sure that the supply chain and sustainability issues are adhered to now and into the future,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s about being brave enough to say, ‘let’s just do it’. Wales has got some fantastic brands – we just need to shout about it.”