Three years and a day. That’s how long it takes before single malt spirit can legally be called “whisky”. Having recently turned 30, I’ve spent 1/10th of my life waiting for Cotswolds Distillery’s sweet nectar to come of age. We headed to the distillery on a surprisingly sunny October day to see if the inaugral Cotswolds Whisky was worth the wait.
For a one off event, Cotswolds Distillery managed to pull out all of the stops. There were an abundance of delicious food stalls including Todenham Farm burgers and Moo Meadows gin and whisky gelato. Hook Norton brewery provided local ales and the distillery team whipped up some amazing cocktails with their award winning gin. A covered stage played host to local bands and with the sun shining, it would have been incredibly hard not to be in fine spirits.
Bottled at 46% abv, the whisky is non-chill filtered and began production in 2014. Founder and CEO, Daniel Szor, escaping life as a city banker, decided he wanted to make a whisky full of local provenance; they only use Cotswolds-grown, floor-malted barley specially chosen from local farmers. With guidance from revered whisky expert, the late Dr Jim Swan, maturation has occurred in both first fill Kentucky ex-Bourbon barrels and specially shaved, toasted and re-charred American Oak red wine casks, producing a surprising depth and balance considering its age.
With the early single malt spirit having been given 94/100 by Jim Murray in both his 2016 and 2017 Whisky Bibles, I was really looking forward to my first dram. Thankfully I was not disappointed. I’m no expert but I get plenty of caramel, a touch of banana and some light fruitiness. There is a bit of burn but you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an older whisky.
If you want the proper low down, here are the distillery’s tasting notes; on the nose, honey and butterscotch, layered with light fruits (peaches, apricots) and a hint of marzipan. The palate is rich with malt, oils and dark sugar. Spice and caramelised bitter orange lead into a long, resinous finish with dark red fruits and a hint of treacle.
Do the Cotswolds Distillery make anything else?
Not content to sit around waiting for the Cotswolds whisky to mature, they’ve spent the last few years getting creative. Their Cotswolds Dry Gin won “Best London Dry” at the World Gin Awards in 2016, featured in Difford’s top 20 gins in the world, and graces the shelves at places such as Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, and Fortnum and Mason.
They also make Cotswolvados (their own take on calvados) with barrels sourced in Normandy, and Cotswold Cream Liqueur that will make you wonder quite seriously why you ever drank Baileys. Sadly their more interesting items are often limited to release just at the on-site shop; that’s definitely a reason to visit and join a distillery tour if ever there was one!
Where can I find out more about Cotswolds Whisky?
Whether you want to buy some of their spirits or book a tour, check out the Cotswolds Distillery website for more information. Their initial whisky release sold out but you can join their reservations list to hopefully get one before Christmas!
If you want to pay a visit, they are located just outside Shipston-on-Stour. Whilst you’re there, check out our A to Z Guide to the Cotswolds for more ideas on things to do in the area.