Based in the village of Llanddarog, Carmarthenshire, the Coles Family Brewery and Distillery at the White Hart Thatched Inn is a family-owned pub and restaurant which doesn’t only offer delicious food, homemade beers and ciders, but is also home to the biggest craft distillery in Wales, producing gin, vodka and Wales’ first rum.
The Coles have run the White Hart Inn for over 28 years and around 8 years ago developed a micro-brewery that now produces over 15 brands of real ale. Further production expansion has seen the installation of a cider press and cider brands, beehives for honey to use as an ingredient for drinks and for the brewery shop, as well as various chutneys and ‘moonshine’ in jars.
Over the last three years the family have invested £1.5millon in a state-of-the-art distillery and are currently producing whisky, gin, vodka and 5 varieties of Wales’ first molasses-to-bottle rum.
What they did
Having owned the pub for many years, a few years ago owner Marcus, brother Cain and wife Annabelle started producing over 15 brands of their own real ale, beers and lagers, establishing the brewery side of the business.
Soon after, they expanded into making their own cider and decided to branch out into the spirits trade by opening their own distillery.
An engineer by trade, Cain designed and built all the stills for the distillery, which is able to produce 9,000 bottles of spirits a week.
Following training in Chicago on how to produce spirits, the family has successfully launched the distillery and are now looking to create a visitor centre to capitalise on the tourism opportunities that the first Welsh rum distillery could bring.
Their proudest moment in business
In 2018, the business was awarded a Silver Medal in the World Spirits Awards, achieving 2nd place beating 1,200 other rums.
“We are also working on a project turning waste bread that was going to landfill into a rather wonderful gin, which we are going to call Bakery Gin. We are working with a large bakery in Swansea to help reduce waste to landfill!”
Do they use Welsh in their business? If so, how has this helped them
“We do use the Welsh language in our business and we have had a video made in Welsh for our distillery.”
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
Business Wales Relationship Manager Dai Nicholas met with Coles Distillery to scope the business’ needs and provided the following areas of support:
- advised and devised a brief for branding and naming their range of rums, including dark, gold, white, spiced and Rum Toddy
- advised on branding for two gin products
- introduced and registered the business with Visit Wales and the VAQAS scheme, the VAQAS scheme signed up the business for their ‘Brewery and Distillery’ category, and Coles visitor tour was awarded the ‘Hidden Gem’ award
- introduced the business to the Bucanier Project, Food Wales and Cywain, who have engaged a marketing consultant to help further develop the gin range
- a Carmarthenshire Growth grant has been secured to help towards the brand design of the gin range
Following further specialist support from a Business Wales Sustainability Adviser, Gareth Davies, Coles’ Brewery have been able to find a re-use outlet for a number of heavy and bulky, problematic waste streams. The brewing process produces waste yeast and apple pulp. Weekly, approximately 200 litres of yeast solution and 1200 litres of apple pulp are being diverted from landfill and going to a local, Carmarthenshire-based pig farmer. These measures, taken together, reduce waste pick-up and disposal costs for Coles Brewery while reducing feed stock costs for the pig farm, supporting wider Welsh Government Circular Economy aims.
Dai continues to support Coles Distillery with their PR Strategy to launch the range of rums, and will advise on the whisky branding and name, helping to develop a wholesale strategy. Dai will also be developing a marketing plan to encompass the whole business.
Marcus said: “I contacted Business Wales for advice on our business growth. I was put in touch with my Relationship Manager Dai Nicholas who has been worth his weight in gold. He has put me in touch with the correct people so that I could overcome obstacles with new markets and re-using waste.”
Here are Coles Distillery’s top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- research your market
- get a strong team around you
- contact Business Wales for advice
- never be afraid to try something different – we make bubble gum gin and it’s flying off the shelves!