Barley. An ancient grain – with a proud history; renowned for health giving properties as well as its importance as a fundamental ingredient of good cheer. Steeped in the traditions of Cardigan’s past, barley is now part of our future and the future of a truly Welsh whisky.
West Wales once had a thriving barley crop – celebrated every year in our local town, Cardigan, on the banks of the River Teifi, since the mid-nineteenth century (and who knows, perhaps earlier) on Barley Saturday. The last Saturday in April – with the planting of barley in the Spring marking the end of the crop sowing season, farmers from the area would come together. After the hard graft of working the soil, Barley Saturday was a time to celebrate, to plot, to hire workers, barter over horses and generally shoot the breeze.
Barley Saturday is still celebrated in Cardigan – horses parade through the town and then thrillingly, are run through the streets – teeth bared, manes tossing, hooves flashing. Strip away the metal fences separating spectators and horses, replace the high-tech foul weather gear (late April weather is not always kind in West Wales) with less sophisticated garb and it often feels like a glimpse into a more visceral past, a life governed by seasonality and the needs of the land.
In recent years, there’s been less of the barley in Barley Saturday, but we’re excited to be on a path to bring it back.
Turning the soil at the Gogerddan feels like the start of a small revolution in agriculture and for the Welsh whisky industry. We now have over 30 acres of barley planted here at the distillery and in the local area. 4 different varieties to compare, contrast and consider as the grain for our single cask, truly welsh, whisky. Not only will it be teased from Welsh-grown grains, it will be malted in our own malting facility. The first of its kind in Wales, we’re hoping to provide more; to provide Welsh malt for the Welsh brewing and distilling industry – a truly Welsh product.
Of course, in the current climate, Barely Saturday can’t go ahead on its usual scale. Lockdown continues and our hand sanitiser production remains a constant reminder of the strange and uncertain times we are living in. Here at the distillery though, we’ll be raising a quiet glass to our barley fields this Saturday – our own homage to Barely Saturday to the agricultural heritage of West Wales, and to all those who have supported us so far on our journey to truly Welsh whisky.