Master Distiller Dai Wakely is the breathing force; the light and fire behind the Distillery…. and, well, the guy who makes it, puts it in a bottle & makes it readily available for you to buy!
When asked about his career, Dai said:
“A careers advisor once asked me, ‘what do I want to be when I’m older’’ I said a club Manager in Ibiza, they laughed and suggested I did something else”.
Having worked in the hospitality and ‘drinks’ industry for over fifteen years, he began his career in hospitality in 2002, when he became a glass collector for Revolution.
Revolution was the start and creation of a prosperous future in the hospitality industry, as he grew from strength to strength following his superiors closely up the ladder.
Within 2 years he went from glass collector, to bar staff, then bar supervisor to Assistant Manager, of what was then the most successful of 60 bars for the company Inventive Leisure. He was the youngest Assistant Manager in the whole company during this time also and his love for drinks, social culture & experimental mixology was cemented.
During my time at Revolution Dai vastly increased the Year on Year sales figures, creating fantastic cocktails that won company awards… you could say, a ‘Star was born’… but that would be cheesy. True. But cheesy.
Having decided to leave the Revolution brand to spread ‘his wings’, Dai then ran several independent bars within Swansea’s famous ‘Wind Street’.
The bars were ‘Bar 7’, ‘The Lounge’ and ‘Peppermint’. Within all these roles, he was offered a blank canvas, to do what he wanted… which of course when it comes to Dai and ‘doing what he wanted’ meant that no doubt, he would flourish.
Again, during the service spent in all these bars, the same trend of YOY figures were delivered during his time there, marketing ideas were revolutionised and recognised within Swansea and surrounding areas. Whilst the marketing side of things had always been his forte, he maintained a profitable business each time, kept a healthy staff moral, passed necessary
environmental health visits, and generally managed all the operations required to a smooth running of a successful bar.
Just before working in Peppermint, Dai fancied a change. He moved to Bristol to find a job as a bar manager, with no job in hand prior the move. He took a step back and jumped behind the bars again whilst applying for Management roles. He worked in ‘Elbow rooms’ and ‘Browns’. Whilst working in Elbow rooms, he questioned about Management roles, and was offered an interview at ‘The Woods’ to become the Assistant General Manager of their bar (same company). To his surprise, the interview couldn’t have gone better, and the Director of the company stated that he was over qualified for the role, and she would love to see him in one of her 26 London bars. London was a big move at the time, as he had a son in Swansea, but couldn’t turn down the opportunity, it was too good an offer.
The bar there was called ‘The Admiral Hardy’ in Greenwich South East London. Dai was also the Manager of ‘Clarence hall’ where he hosted sweet 16 parties, wedding receptions, wakes and birthday parties on a big budget scale. Due to the success of these events Dai later became part of the events team in the 02 Arena, where he hosted after concert parties for celebrities. His best event to this date was the pre and after party for the Brit Awards and he served Rhianna a ‘Dark and Stormy’.
At the London bar, Dai learnt a lot about catering and events.
He also travelled home each week on the mega bus to see his son, and it became a struggle and would have effected his job in the long run, so in short, after some pretty serious consideration he made the move back home and thats where I began my transition to Peppermint Swansea. And where the start of his mixology and experimenting with different flavour profiles really became the love of his life.
One thing that Dai always prided him on being, was a mixologist. It’s actually a word hated by bartenders, but it basically means the art of creating mixed drinks (cocktails). During his career, he’s been a part of the Absolut vodka academy, given live show classes for Maxium spirits, been part of the menu development team for Marston bars (Pitcher and Piano) and of course developed all menus for each and every bar that I’ve Managed. Dai also created the menu at Li’l London with over 100 original cocktails created.
Whilst carving out this new path on the road to Master Distiller, Dai launched Swansea hot spot ‘Fancy a rum’. The late night club was recognised as the place to be and gave Dai the chance to start really experimenting with new flavours.
Dai, along with business partner David Bellis, are directors of Li’l London, a Shoreditch themed cocktail bar, The Meatery & Martini Co, a Quirky Steak House, Old Havana a Cuban fusion restaurant and bar and Juniper Place, a relaxed dining restaurant that’s fully attached to Cygnet Distillery.
The 300 litre, copper pot distillery, a product of Arnold Holstein, is by far, Dai’s greatest achievement (along with his son of course).
He’s been home brewing his own beers and wines at home for over ten years, but until now, never managed to take it further than being that guy who gives out sloe gin for Christmas.
It was during the last six to eight years that Dai really perfected his talent for infusing spirits and was lucky enough to develop the original Cygnet Gin alongside Jamie Baxter, legendary Distillery of Chase Distillery and now, Burleighs Gin.
He may have slightly steered away from wanting to become that club Manager in Ibiza, but there’s no doubt that he truly loves what he does.