Pic Credit: Supplied
When Penderyn Distillery was launched, the idea of a Welsh Whisky wasn’t everyone’s, well, cup of tea. But that didn’t stop Stephen Davies and the founders of the business. Twenty years on, Penderyn Distillery have not only put Wales on the map when it comes to Whisky, but are also one of the top go-to brands when it comes to Single Malt Whisky.
I caught up with Stephen to find out about Penderyn Distillery and how he overcame the negative barriers he initially faced to grow the business into an award winning company.
Hi Stephen! Thank you for taking the time to chat to us! Please tell us a bit about Penderyn Distillery, who you are and what you do.
Penderyn makes premium quality spirits including Penderyn Single Malt Whisky, Brecon Gin and our newly launched Siddiqui Rum. I’ve been running Penderyn Distillery for 15 years now and I also do some business mentoring work as well. Prior to running Penderyn I worked at management and director level in the steel industry providing high service level business to business services across the UK and Europe, so I’ve been fortunate to have a good range of management experience.
What made you decide to create a Welsh Whisky, especially when traditionally it is Scottish?
The idea was to revive a tradition that had previously existed in Wales but had been absent for over 100 years. It’s hard to believe that as a relatively new distillery we have been distilling now for over 20 years. It was important that we didn’t want to copy Scotch Whisky and our spirit which is made on our own unique Penderyn Faraday Stills is much lighter bodied yet it can be a very complex single malt. It’s a very individual spirit in its style.
Pic Credit: Supplied
Did you receive any negativity or push backs from people when you told them you wanted to create a Welsh Whisky? How did you deal with that?
Almost no-one thought it was a good idea at the time! Some industry experts told us that our spirit was superb but that nobody would buy it because it was Welsh and not Scottish. It took quite a while to build credibility by talking and tasting about the brand at shows and events; winning awards and impressing the whisky critics. Consistency in quality has been very important and we have had to be patient as it has taken many years to get to the level we are at today.
There are many new craft distilleries in England and Wales now but in those days, we were the only one.
What’s your advice for overcoming negativity and doubt from others in business?
You need an outstanding product or service to really create value these days and I was fortunate that we had created that from a great team of experts in technical and design disciplines, so I was confident that we had a product that had the potential to become a great brand.
I think you should celebrate all the little achievements when you start out and believe in yourself and your brand. There are always many critics and doubters so be prepared for that. I would also say that you shouldn’t celebrate your successes too much and you should see set backs as learning opportunities – keep the business on an even footing not too many highs or lows and be as transparent as possible with your shareholders and colleagues.
When things don’t go well you find you have to explain yourself a lot more that when everything is going to plan. It helps to keep everyone onboard during the difficult times.
As a small brand or an SME you have to keep the energy around business development high and keep being creative both inside the business and in your interactions with the outside world,
What has been the highlight of running Penderyn Distillery so far?
Establishing the brand as a well-respected Single Malt in the Spirits industry – we get great feedback from all over the world and whilst there is still a lot of work to do and we are not complacent I think we can enjoy some of the recognition as being regarded as a premium Welsh brand.
What are the future plans for Penderyn Distillery?
Growth over the next few years is about three things – firstly increasing exports of all our spirits plus opening two new distilleries; the first in Llandudno in March 2021 and the second in Swansea in mid-2022 so we have some exciting times ahead.
What one tip would you give other business owners?
Keep a close eye on the basics and cash of course is always king! But my key tip would be to build your business for the long term and focus on delighting your customers and keeping them with you on your journey.
Thank you Stephen!
For more information about Penderyn Distillery you can visit their website www.penderyn.wales