Talking gin with James Wright of Aber Falls Distillery

James Wright, Managing Director of Aber Falls. Photo by Ian Cooper

Put everything else on ice: it’s time to chill the tonic and make the ultimate lockdown G&T for World Gin Day on 13th June. To give you a head start, we talk to James Wright, managing director at Aber Falls Distillery in Snowdonia, about Welsh gin and how to best drink it. 

What’s the secret to the perfect G&T, James? 

Nothing tastes as delicious as a cold G&T. The perfect serve contains just three simple ingredients: 50ml gin, a good quality tonic water and a wedge of lime to garnish. At the moment, we would assume people don’t have a lot of fancy ingredients, so there’s no better time to keep it simple and classic. It’s also important to use a glass with a good opening, like a copa, tumbler or even a red wine glass, which will release all the botanicals in the gin. Make sure it’s cold and add plenty of ice.

How does Aber Falls reflect your love of Snowdonia?

Aber Falls captures the spirit of North Wales with its love of local ingredients – from using barley from neighbouring farmers’ fields to taking water from the stream that flows down from the Aber Falls waterfall alongside the distillery. And our logo draws inspiration from the area’s rich heritage and history. Calling on Wales’ Celtic symbology, Aber Falls has been given its own unique triquetra, also known as a trinity knot. This also represents the Aber Falls waterfall, or Rhaeadr Fawr as it appears on gin and liqueur bottles.

Feeding into this is our ‘field-to-field’ philosophy: establishing local sources of barley and creating a sustainable crop for over 115 distilleries and breweries, then giving the by-product from the distillery back to the farmers as feed. It ensures the distillery maintains a sustainable supply and has an authentic Welsh ingredients story to tell.

How has gin taken off in Wales in recent years?

The Welsh gin industry has come on apace in the past few years and there are now 17 distilleries across the country. Gin producers in Wales have certainly benefitted from the the gin boom and have seized the opportunity to experiment, drawing inspiration from established styles as well as adding their own stamp.

We’re getting thirsty… So tell us about what makes your gins special.

We should probably start with our most-loved Orange Marmalade Gin, inspired by the Tropical Glasshouse at Treborth Botanic Gardens. This is bursting with the pine-like flavour of juniper, bittersweet oranges and, with hints of marmalade in the background. With a subtle tartness on the palate, this light, delicate gin offers a citrus hit and warming aftertaste. Sticking with flavoured spirits, our Rhubarb & Ginger Gin delivers a unexpected twist, inspired by the warming, homely taste of rhubarb and ginger crumble.

More recently, we’ve introduced a fresh take on the juniper-based spirit with the release of a Welsh Dry Gin, with layered citrus edge and a slightly spicy-sweet backbone, which scooped a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Finally, our Small Batch Welsh Gin really raises the bar. Inspired by flavours dating to Celtic times, it leads with the aroma of lavender, which is complemented by the piney juniper and background notes of peppery spice.

How about your signature cocktails? Give us a taster…

Aber Falls is surrounded by fields and flowing streams, with views of the Menai Strait. This stunning landscape no doubt inspired the brilliant bar team at Dylan’s Restaurant in North Wales when creating a selection of delicious serves for us.

Our signature Menai Martini celebrates the beautiful Menai Strait. Our serve is very straight forward: simply mix 37.5ml of Aber Falls Welsh Dry Gin with 5ml of Dry Vermouth over ice, stir for 20 to 30 seconds and strain into a pre-chilled martini glass.

We’ve also been busy creating more cocktails during lockdown, including one for Father’s Day (Sunday 21st June), which puts a twist on the classic godfather cocktail, using 20ml of Aber Falls Salted Toffee Liqueur combined with 60ml whisky. There are just two steps: firstly, fill a mixing glass full of ice, add the ingredients, stir until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled glass.

We hear you’re about to open a new visitor centre. Tell us about it. 

Our new visitor centre is set to open in late 2020 – slightly delayed, unfortunately, due to Covid-19). Besides a state-of-the-art training hub, it will give visitors the chance to see what happens day-to-day at a distillery in North Wales.

Finally, we’d love some insight into your new whisky.

We’re really forward to launching the whisky in time for St David’s Day 2021.

Our whisky production is at the heart of the distillery. When we started, there had been no distilling in North Wales for more than 100 years, so we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to make sure the return of this proud tradition is a huge success.

Whisky today goes beyond the borders of Scotland. We’re passionate about the fact our whisky is 100% Welsh from start to finish, and we want to uphold that by creating a sustainable future for Welsh whisky. For now, we are looking at releasing two firsts in 2021: an unaged statement and a Welsh rye whisky.

READ ON: For more inspiration (and gin!), check out this Aber Falls cocktail recipe created atop Snowdon.