It’s generally known that women have better noses than men when it comes to detecting aromas. There are many women distillers across the spirits industry, but Penderyn is probably unique in that their distilling & blending team are all women. Whilst they have specific roles and responsibilities, they meet together regularly to nose new batches of spirit & whiskies and work very closely together.
The distillery team is headed up by Laura Davies, who as Distillery Manager looks after the day-to day running of spirit production. Laura gained a BSc (Hons) in Forensic Science & Criminology at the University of Glamorgan – ‘At the interview our Chief Executive asked, ‘Do you know much about whisky?’ When I responded that I didn’t he said, ‘Well, this is Dr Jim Swan, one of the leading whisky experts in the world’. For the next hour or so Dr Swan took me through a fairly comprehensive nose and taste test to determine if I had the ability to conduct sensory assessments on our new make spirit, maturing spirit and finished products. I could barely speak I was so nervous but thankfully Jim saw some potential and went on to become my mentor for the next five years.’
Aista Jukneviciute is Penderyn’s Blender. It’s her job to decide when whiskies have matured, and to help develop expressions of our whisky both existing and new. Aista gained an MSc in Chemical Engineering from Kaunas University in Lithuania but now calls Brecon home – ‘The most satisfying part of the job is working together with our great colleagues, meeting customers and whisky lovers all over the world. It’s so rewarding seeing peoples’ reaction on trying our whisky for the first time and they clearly love it. It’s also always wonderful when we win awards as it validates the hard work put in by everybody at the distillery.’
The newest member of the team is Trainee Distiller Bethan Morgans, who is from nearby Aberdare and gained a BSc (Hons) in Public Health Nutrition at the School of Food in Cardiff Metropolitan University. For those interested in distilling, Bethan had this advice – ‘Try and get as much on the job training as possible as it is so much more exciting than theory-based training. Working in a distillery is exciting and unpredictable and gaining some hands-on experience is the best way to prepare you for the role of a distiller.’
The team agree that distilling is about getting stuck in and being prepared to get your hands dirty. ‘The detail of the day-to-day running of the distillery is where you can really make a difference to the quality of the product,’ said Laura. ‘The best results don’t always come from textbooks but from experience and experimentation – don’t be afraid to think for yourself.’