How Aber Falls create unique, flavoursome whisky like no other
- Credit: Aber Falls Whisky Distillery
There’s nothing quite like uncorking a perfectly distilled malt whisky, savouring its full flavour and aroma.
The process of turning raw ingredients into this beloved spirit takes a lot of hard work, meticulous planning and a dash of creativity. Capturing the beautiful, rugged landscape of North Wales into their ethos and product, Aber Falls’ Whisky Distillery in Abergwyngregyn is on a mission to put Welsh whisky well and truly on the map.
The September release of the Single Malt Welsh Whisky aims to do just that, offering a truly unique product to whisky connoisseurs and new drinkers alike.
We chat to Sam Foster, a distiller at Aber Falls, about their distillation techniques and what makes their whisky so special.
Q: Where do you source the ingredients in your whisky from?
A: The grain used in the vast majority of whisky production is barley, and 100 per cent of the barley used in our products is grown in nearby farms. As well as being a big part of our commitment to improving the local economy, it ensures every bottle has an authentic flavour profile, as we are one of the few distilleries that use Welsh malted barley.
None of the by-products from the distillation process go to waste. Spent barley is recycled to produce cattle feed and waste pot ale makes great fertiliser. By sending these by-products to local farms, we support our community and make good use of each part of the process.
Q: What is the first step in the distillation process?
A: After the fermentation stage is over, we store our whisky in large copper stills. The purpose of the stills is to remove the sulphur from the fermented liquid and aid the formation of the esters, which give our whisky its refined character.
In our distillery, we have stainless steel as well as copper stills, which have their own impact on the flavour of the alcohol. Copper gives the whisky a very light, fruity taste and is the classic flavour that has made the spirit so popular. Stainless steel gives the whisky a very different character – the first distillation has an almost meaty flavour. This matures into an extremely pleasant, unique profile that has also proved extremely popular.
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Q: How do you enhance the flavour of your whisky?
A: The wood policy is an integral part of the process for altering and intensifying the taste of each batch. There is no exact science to it, but it is said that around 50 per cent of the flavour comes from the barrel. This is why it's so important to use not only the highest quality wood, but to discern the impact it has on the whisky.
Experimentation is the key to unlocking the perfect batch – sometimes transferring the spirit from one type of wood to another can magnify a particular flavour. We use a lot of virgin oak for our casks, which results in an amazing amber colour. We also use high-quality Spanish sherry for finishing, as well as orange wine, to intensify the citrus notes.
Q: What gives each batch of whisky its unique profile?
A: The distilling process can often be quite controlled, especially when we want to replicate a specific type of flavour, aroma or colour. However, what makes the process so exciting is that anything from the success of the barley yield, to the exact time the whisky has matured, to the type of still it went through can affect the end product.
That’s why we’re always trying out new methods and techniques, to give each bottle a fantastic appearance and an unforgettable flavour. We also offer tours throughout the entire working distillery, beginning at the start of the process with the ingredients and finishing off with tasting at the end. It’s a great way for visitors to sample and learn more about high-quality whisky.
For more information on the distillation process and the spirits available, visit aberfallsdistillery.com or call 01248 209224 to book a tour.