What did you do before setting up In The Welsh Wind Distillery?
I (Ellen) grew up in West Wales. After Alex and I met, we moved to the Midlands for work. I was teaching Geography in a secondary school and Alex was working as a pub manager before retraining as a baker. We spent some time away but couldn’t resist the call of West Wales. We moved back and, after initially working in different local businesses, we took 3 months to walk around Wales. This adventure was the catalyst we needed for us to embark in business together. We initially set up a micro-bakery alongside our family’s holiday cottage business in the seaside village of Tresaith, north of Cardigan on the Ceredigion coast.
What made you decide to set up a distillery?
After a hectic summer in 2017, we gathered up our toddler son and headed to Scotland in our camper van. As we explored along the North Coast 500, we discovered some of the fantastic micro-distilleries operating up there. One gin in particular, Badachro Gin, distilled near Gairloch, really inspired us. We contacted the owners and ended up visiting them and chatting all things gin and distilling. A couple of days later, it was clear that Alex and I were both thinking the same thing – that we should go back to West Wales and set up our own craft distillery.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
In March 2019, we moved the distillery from our renovated cow shed into the Gogerddan Arms - a former pub and something of a local landmark, situated on a major crossroads on the main West Wales coast road that runs between Aberystwyth and HaverfordWest.
The building won an award when it was designed in the ‘60s. We are taking that structure and creating a bespoke distillery/visitor space within it. We’ve stripped back some of the less appealing aspects of 1960s and 70s décor, replacing stained pine with original brickwork, and carpet tiles with poured concrete. It’s a work in progress, but visitors can already enjoy the open spaces of our lounge/bar area, and see our copper pot stills Meredith and Afanc.
What can visitors expect and experience if they visit the distillery?
We offer gin making and gin tasting experiences here in the distillery. Everything starts in our lounge, with a gin and tonic and flows from there.
If you’re here for a gin making experience, you will spend time in our gin lab with our host who will introduce you to botanical profiles and explain the importance of ‘hero’ botanicals too. You’ll learn how to operate one of our custom-made copper pot mini stills and discover more about the different stages of distillation while your own gin develops and you will take home your own hand-annotated bottle of gin.
A gin tasting experience with us takes place in our lounge where you have the opportunity to relax with a G&T while we introduce ourselves and our gins. You will taste 3 gins and enjoy a furtherG&T made with a gin of your choice.
What have been the biggest challenges and successes so far?
Since we launched, we’ve been on a huge journey, learning how to distil, establishing a permanent home for the distillery, growing the business in terms of staff, and of course, most recently, the challenges of COVID-19. Securing the Gogerddan Arms site in 2019 was a huge coup. We had quickly realised that our initial distillery would not be big enough to allow us to grow as we wanted. For premises to become available in the right location at the right time was fantastic for us. Launching our own ‘Signature Style’ gin in July 2020, after 2.5 years making gins for other businesses was hugely exciting, and of course, receiving our licence to distil whisky marks a big milestone for us.
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Contemporary, familiar, smooth.
What’s your favourite way to drink your gin?
Our Signature Style Gin is perfect for sipping neat, where flavours of the spices - cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves - are more prevalent. Add a classic tonic (we recommend a ‘full fat’, unflavoured tonic) and sweet orange comes to the fore.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
Cotswold Dry Gin from England and Downpour Gin from Scotland.
What’s next for In The Welsh Wind - any exciting plans?
Alongside developing our range of own brand gins, and more award-winning gins with other businesses, our next major project is the production of a truly Welsh whisky. Working with the local farming community, in 2020 we have planted around 30 acres of barley both at the distillery and in local fields. Not only will our grain be grown in Wales, but we will be developing a malting floor at the distillery – the first in Wales we think for over 100 years. By malting here in Wales, we will ensure the production of the first fully ‘grain to glass’ Welsh whisky.