Sue Ray Uncorked
Cotswolds Distillery - 23 September 2021
Phillip's Field, Whichford Road, Stourton, Shipston-on-Stour, CV36 5EX
Daniel Szor, an American, and self-confessed lover of single malt whisky, founded the Cotswolds Distillery in 2014. The Distillery, which appears to be located in the middle of nowhere, produces spirits which truly reflect the beauty of the surrounding Cotswolds.
Keen to source local products where possible, barley for the whisky comes from local farms and lavender for the gin comes from Snowshill, near Broadway. Everything is hand crafted and hand finished.
Primarily a whisky distillery, whisky is aged in a selection of barrels from the USA, Portugal, Spain and France, all of which infuse their own flavours and colours to produce some extremely smooth products which defy their age.
The Cotswolds Dry Gin has a neutral base spirit distilled with a robust hit of juniper, local lavender, coriander seed, angelica root, bay leaves, fresh lime and pink grapefruit zest, cardamom and black peppercorns.
Dolly creates the gin:
Dolly is a 1200 litre copper pot still responsible for producing the gin. Neutral wheat spirit is diluted to 60% abv and juniper berries, angelica root and coriander seeds are added and macerate overnight to extract the flavours. The following day, the lavender and remaining botanicals are added and distillation begins. Dolly can produce 1000 bottles of Gin per day! Once the distillation process is complete, the distillate rests for 7 days, and is then diluted to 46% and bottled for sale.
Mary and Janice create the whisky:
Locally grown barley is the base of the whisky. Malted at Britain’s oldest working maltings, it is transported to the distillery where it is stored in silos until ready for distillation. 2 yeasts are used in the distilling process along with 2 beautiful copper pot stills; Mary and Janice.
Mary is a 2500 litre copper pot still, also known as a wash still, used to create the Low Wines. Janice is a 1600 litre spirits still which separates the alcohol from the impurities, resulting in the heart of the product, the base of all future whisky.
The new make spirit, know as White Pheasant, is the final product which comes off the still ready for barrel ageing. We tasted this in the barrel room. It is 63.5% abv and has aromas and flavours of overripe banana, ripe pear, turnips and burnt sugar. Despite its high levels of alcohol, it is already very fruity and smooth, with a long finish.
The new make spirit cannot be called whisky until it has been aged for a minimum of 3 years and 1 day. This ageing process takes place in a combination of 70% “STR” ex-red wine casks (shaved, toasted and re-charred) from Portugal and 30% Bourbon barrels from Kentucky. The STR casks tend to mature the whisky more quickly. Other casks used for ageing are a blend of Oloroso and PX Sherry casks from Spain, Rye Whisky barrels from the Hook Norton Brewery and the oldest barrels are 85 and 90 year old ex Calvados barrels, which are currently maturing locally made cider!
The tutored tasting comprises the Cotswolds Signature Single Malt Whisky and the Cotswolds Dry Gin. You are then free to choose up to 5 other products which you would like to taste. Drivers are provided with soft drinks at the tasting, and given their choice of products to take away and sample in their own time. This is an excellent idea, and ensures drivers don’t miss out!
Cotswolds Dry Gin – 46%
The first thing you notice is the lavender, then the juniper, and then the citrus. This is exceptionally smooth. Due to the high concentration of botanicals in the blend, the gin turns opaque when ice or tonic is added.
Cotswolds Old Tom Gin – 42%
Slightly sweeter in style than the Cotswolds Dry Gin, the liquorice root adds sweet, woody notes. Hints of fresh orange, ginger and warm spices complete the palate.
Cotswolds Signature Single Malt Whisky – 46%
The first whisky ever distilled in the Cotswolds is aged in 30% first fill Bourbon casks and 70% STR ex-red wine casks. Classic in style, with toasted hazelnuts, honey, toast and marzipan on the nose and rich dark sugar, honey, caramel and Seville orange on the palate.
Founder’s Choice Single Malt Whisky – 60.5%
A cask strength release aged exclusively in STR ex-red wine casks. This is deeper in colour than the Signature style and has aromas and flavours of rich butterscotch, honey, toffee, nuts and fruit cake. Beautiful!
Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky – 57.4%
Aged in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks, this is sweet and rich. Cherries, dark chocolate and expresso on the nose, followed by rich dark chocolate, dried fruit and roasted nuts on the palate. Exquisite!
Peated Cask Single Malt Whisky – 59.3%
Another cask strength release aged exclusively in ex-peated whisky casks. This has a gently peated nose with a hint of vanilla. Creamy soft fudgy flavours, brown sugar, honey, toast and a hint of smoke complete the palate. Extremely delicate, light and thoroughly enjoyable.
Hearts & Crafts Sauternes Cask Single Malt Whisky – 55.2%
The first whisky produced in the Hearts & Crafts series and a limited edition. Aged in small French wine casks seasoned with sweet Sauternes wine, the result is an exceptionally smooth whisky with peaches, raisins and sweet oak spice. Exceptional!
My thanks to Ellie for making our visit so enjoyable and special thanks to Dan and the whole team for producing such a range of beautiful products. It’s hard to believe they have only been distilling since 2014. I would thoroughly recommend a visit when you are next in the area and I will definitely be back!
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