It was not to be, although today two distilleries do exist in Wales, allowing it to be officially termed a ‘whisky-producing nation’.
A reminder of the earlier attempt to establish this industry came up at auction at the Peter Francis saleroom in Carmarthen.
In a timed online auction on thesaleroom.com ending on December 5, two Royal Welsh Whisky bottles produced by the Welsh Whisky Distillery sold for £7300 and £7200 (plus 23% buyer’s premium each) against estimates of £1500-2000 each.
Only one other is believed to have come up at auction, selling at Phillips in 2001 for just under £1400. It is now owned by one of those two Welsh distilleries now in operation: Penderyn in south-west Wales, established in 2000 near the Peter Francis saleroom. Another bottle is owned by the St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff and is periodically on display.
The Welsh Whisky Distillery was founded in 1889 in Frongoch, Bala, north Wales, but by 1910 it was closed.
The two bottles auctioned had spent around 50 years in the same family. The vendor’s father, Bennett Howell, ran a wine merchants, George Bennett and Co, near Fishguard, south Wales. Peter Francis auctioneer Charles Hampshire said: “Her father came across these bottles when there was an advert in the paper and he bought six of them at about £5 a bottle back in the 1960s.”
One of the pair offered in Carmarthen was bought by a UK private collector, while the other is heading back to north Wales – in fact, to a private collector who lives very close to the Frongoch site of the original distillery.
The bottles were sold with fascinating documents and pictures, supporting that strong provenance.