The Penderyn Music Book Prize enters its 10th year!

JonMedia, National Press, Penderyn Prize

In 2015 the Penderyn Music Book Prize was the first music book prize in the UK, and Welsh whisky distillers Penderyn are very proud to sponsor this prize. The NME called it ‘The Mercury Prize of books.’ The prize will be awarded at the Laugharne Weekend at 2pm on Sunday March 17th 2024, and the prize winners have always attended, except in 2020 when the pandemic happened.

The longlist is announced today, and the shortlist will be announced at the Boogaloo, Highgate on the 6th March. 2024 judges include journalists Miranda Sawyer, Pete Paphides and Jo Kendall; Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis, musician Jah Wobble and Richard Boon, who set up the first indie punk label and managed the Buzzcocks.

In 2014 Richard Thomas, organiser of the Laugharne Weekend said, ‘It’s long been an oddity that while there are prizes for the best sports book of the year, the best travel book, the best food and drink book, there has never been a prize for the best music book. So when we spotted this glaring omission, we felt it was pretty much our civic duty to right that wrong. Publishers and booksellers alike agreed that this was indeed a prize waiting to happen, and one they’d gladly support. And seeing that the Laugharne Weekend’s preferred drinking  venue – also  Dylan Thomas’s former local, The Brown’s – is well supplied with Penderyn Whisky, it didn’t take us long to think up our ideal sponsors for such a prize.’

Stephen Davies, Penderyn’s CEO, said, ‘Good stories, music and the finest single malt go hand-in-hand, and Penderyn are big fans of the work Richard Thomas and John Williams have done with the Laugharne Weekend. As we all love our music at the distillery, we are delighted to sponsor this exciting prize, which is now entering its 10th year.’

Bob Stanley, 2023’s winning author for ‘Let’s Do It’ (Faber & Faber): ‘It is a genuine honour to have won this year’s Penderyn. The competition on the long list, let alone the short list, was formidable. I believe the number of great music books published in the last few years, and the public’s interest in them, is directly connected to the Penderyn Prize and its corralling of enthusiastic writers and publishers. It’s a privilege to be able to say that Let’s Do It won, and I hope the Penderyn Prize goes from strength to strength.’

Darryl W. Bullock, 2022’s winning author for ‘The Velvet Mafia’ (Omnibus) – ‘I am still shell-shocked after winning the 8th Penderyn Music Book prize. When the longlist was announced I was hugely flattered, and when the shortlist came about I felt privileged to be in such incredible company, but I did not for a moment entertain the idea that I might actually win! Huge thanks to the judges, to the team at Penderyn and to everyone involved with the Laugharne Weekend; the kind words spoken, and the support generously demonstrated for The Velvet Mafia will stay with me forever.’ 

(All the prize winners did quotes, and they are here:

These books are on the longlist for 2014:

Reach For The Stars – Michael Cragg (Nine Eight)

I Thought I Heard You Speak – Audrey Golden (White Rabbit)

Too Late To Stop Now – Allan Jones (Caravel)

Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You – Lucinda Williams (Simon & Schuster UK)

Bee Gees: Children of The World – Bob Stanley (Nine Eight)

Nick Drake: A Life – Richard Morton Jack (John Murray)

Sonic Life – Thurston Moore (Faber)

Lead Sister, The Story of Karen Carpenter – Lucy O’Brien (Nine Eight)

Too Much Too Young – Daniel Rachel (White Rabbit)

Life’s a Gamble – Pauline Murray (Omnibus Press)

Paused in Cosmic Reflection – Robin Turner (White Rabbit)

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) – Sly Stone (White Rabbit)

These are the previous winners:

Previous Winners

2023 – Bob Stanley – Let’s Do It (Faber & Faber)

2022 – Darryl W Bullock – The Velvet Maffia (Omnibus Press)

2021 – Pete Paphides – Broken Greek (Quercus)

2020 – Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow – Up Jumped The Devil – The Real Life of Robert Johnson (Omnibus)

2019 – Shirley Collins – ‘All In The Downs’ (Strange Attractor)

2018 – Stuart Cosgrove – ‘Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul’ (Polygon)

2017 – Daniel Rachel – ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ (Picador)

2016 – Jon Savage – ‘1966: The Year The Decade Exploded’ (Faber)

2015 – Mark Lewisohn – ‘The Beatles – All These Years: Volume One: Tune In’ (Little, Brown)

More info and quotes here:


Penderyn produces award-winning single malt whiskies and spirits at their distillery on the foothills of the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) National Park, Wales, UK. They opened two other distilleries in Llandudno (2021) and Swansea (2023). They are now in the Top 10 Whisky producers in the UK.

Distilling in Wales was a lost art, but in the late 1990s, in a Hirwaun pub in the Welsh valleys, a group of friends chatted about establishing the first whisky distillery in Wales in over a century. They dreamt of creating a whisky as pure and precious as Welsh gold, represented today by Penderyn’s ‘gold seam’. The village of Penderyn was chosen because of the site’s own supply of fresh natural spring water.

A unique copper single-pot still designed by Dr David Faraday, a relative of the great 19th-century scientist Michael Faraday, was installed in 2000. It produces a spirit at an industry-high draw of 92%, meaning Penderyn’s whiskies are light, fruity and flavoursome.

This business seemed a curiosity – a Welsh whisky? – but when the Scottish whisky expert, Dr Jim Swan, became the Master Distiller, things got serious. Dr Swan got involved because he said the still created a world-class spirit and explained it should finish in Madeira casks, which became their house style. This quickly advanced to sherry casks, peated casks, port casks, and a number of other casks used for finishing. 

On St David’s Day 2004 Penderyn whisky was launched. With investment, inspiration, hard work, attention to detail, the finest barley, expert female distillers and the best American oak bourbon casks, Penderyn Whisky has quickly gained a worldwide reputation for its range of whiskies, winning over 100 Double Gold/Gold/Masters awards en route. Today Penderyn is very much part of the world whisky conversation, and is available in over 50 countries, including key markets in France, Germany, the USA and China. Indeed only around a handful of countries were exporting whisky when they began, and now most countries do, so Penderyn really was a pioneer in the world whisky industry.

Penderyn is a privately owned company, with over 60 shareholders.

From Wales to the world…