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Welsh Whisky Brand Penderyn Establishes A Growing U.S. Presence

January 18, 2019

When drinkers consider the whiskies of the world, Wales isn’t usually in the picture. But Welsh single malt whisky Penderyn is quickly establishing itself in the U.S. market, sparked by rising consumer interest in “discovery” whiskies from new places. The brand recently won a spot on Whisky Advocate’s Top 20 Whiskies of 2018 list.

Penderyn leads with its Dragon Collection, which includes three expressions: Madeira cask-finished Penderyn Legend ($50 a 750-ml.), ex-Bourbon cask and ex-red wine cask-finished Penderyn Myth ($60), and Penderyn Celt ($60), which is finished in quarter casks previously used for peated Scotch whisky. All three are at 43% abv. Penderyn Celt was the label that won Whisky Advocate Top 20 honors, finishing at number-17 with a score of 91 points.

Penderyn also offers the more upscale Gold range, at 46% abv, which includes Madeira ($70 a 750-ml.) and Sherrywood ($80) expressions. The Gold range also has a Port cask-finished label, which should arrive in the U.S. by year-end. Although none of Penderyn’s offerings have an age statement, the company generally ages its whiskies from 5-8 years.

Penderyn, whose formal name is The Welsh Whisky Co., began distilling in 2000 and bottled its first whisky in 2004. The Penderyn distillery, located near the village of Penderyn in southeastern Wales, sources its water from springs in nearby Brecon Beacons National Park. Annual capacity is 700,000 liters of pure alcohol, and the facility now runs on a 24-7 basis.

Penderyn’s U.S. importer is San Francisco-based ImpEx Beverages, which began handling the brand last year. ImpEx specializes in single malts and has a track record of developing high-end brands. Its portfolio includes Japanese rice whisky Fukano, which finished in Whisky Advocate’s Top 20 rankings in 2017. In addition to Penderyn Celt, this year’s Top 20 includes another ImpEx-imported brand, Kilchoman Loch Gorm, which ranked No. 15.

Penderyn is currently available in 28 states, including Florida, Texas, California, New York, and Illinois. “The ultimate goal is to have Penderyn in every state where ImpEx is present,” says ImpEx president Sam Filmus. “We’re in no rush—we want to take the right steps to ensure the brand’s long-standing presence in the market.”

Initial shipments in 2018 were several thousand cases, but ImpEx plans to maintain 15% annual volume growth for the long term. Most sales thus far are in high-end off-premise accounts, although ImpEx is seeing some on-premise success, specifically with Madeira cask-finished Penderyn Legend.

In total, Penderyn sells around 330,000 bottles annually, and expects to reach 500,000 bottles in three years. The company is expanding, with plans to open two additional distilleries. One will be located in the south Wales coastal city of Swansea and will feature a three-story visitor center. That project is slated for completion by 2021. The third Penderyn distillery is being planned in Llandudno on the Welsh north coast.

Tourism is a key part of the motivation for Penderyn’s new distillery projects. Its main facility hosts around 42,000 visitors annually, and Penderyn hopes to attract more than 50,000 visitors a year to the Swansea facility. It will likely be aiming for similar numbers at Llandudno as well.—David Fleming

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