Monday, 28 July 2014

Outstanding Natural Spirits: Cotswolds Distillery Launch

Last week, Tuesday 22nd July, I was lucky enough to go to the launch of England's newest whisky makers, Cotswolds Distillery. A handful of local media, whisky buffs and bloggers were invited to have a little snoop around the site and hear firsthand what plans they’ve got up their sleeves.

Nestled amongst the picturesque Cotswold countryside in Stourton, you can't help but appreciate the site's beauty (look at the pictures, you'll understand). It’s pretty clear that a lot of money has been put into this project; it’s a whopping £4m investment with two buildings set on five acres of land.
The founder, Daniel Szor, kicked off the evening by saying a few welcoming words, and explaining how it all came about.. I’ll cut it short. Basically, after being a whisky lover for over 20 years, Dan had ventured to New York’s Whisky Live – he’s a Big Apple Boy himself – and it was the first time he’d noticed such a large amount of Craft Distillers. He already owned a holiday home in the Cotswolds (just down the road from the site) and one day, gazing out of the window, he saw fields of golden barley swaying in the wind. Like a light bulb moment, the idea of Cotswolds Distillery was born. A gentle nudge, or rather a “What the bloody hell are you waiting for?!” from his friend Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich, and everything started falling into place very quickly. Before he knew it, the stills were on order and Dan was gathering a good workforce.

Alex Davies, formerly of Chase Distillery, has taken the role of Head Distiller; a promising start. Shaun Smith is Head Brewer and Assistant Distillery Manager, and Nick Franchino is Assistant Distiller. Dan’s managed to get three pretty bloomin’ awesome mentors on board too; Bowmore famed Harry Cockburn, whisky troubleshooter Jim Swan, and the godfather of branding Craig Mackinlay. Let the spirits commence!

Taken from Cotswold Distillery news
Traditional Forsyth copper pot stills were an absolute must, and with a huge waiting list, they weren’t expecting to get up and running any time soon. Then by some twist of fate, the phone rang bearing good news of a 2014 order cancellation that would be ready in June; clearly, it was meant to be.We all know that making whisky requires a minimum of three years, so what do they plan to do in the meantime?.. Quenching people’s thirst with an artisan gin!

You might sigh at the thought of that, there are flippin’ loads of gins on the market at the moment – you’ll probably have seen our numerous posts about them (here) – so do we REALLY need more? Assuringly, Cotswolds Distillery have made it clear that they don’t want to create ‘just another one’; they’ve chosen to focus on wild, locally-sourced, unique Cotswold botanicals. It will be a drink full of heritage and provenance; a gin with a purpose.

With the help of botanist Benedict Pollard, the team are in the process of building a single-botanical distillate library housed in a swanky tasting room/lab get up. The list is 150+strong, including things such as lavender (my fave out of the ones we tried), lemon balm, and pink peppercorns (the more unusual ones were kept under wraps), and it’ll serve as a guide explaining how botanicals react during distillation. The library will be an essential tool for recipe development, and the Cotswolds Distillery Gin is intended to be available in the coming months.

So back to the whisky.. The barley they’ve ordered is organically-farmed from a 2013 harvest just 20 miles south of the site, at Bradwell Grove Farm, and it will be floor-malted by hand at Warminster Maltings. The spirit will be left to do its thing in first fill American bourbon casks, and they intend on the whisky being unpeated with strong notes of barley sugar, honey and vanilla.

Distillation will be taking place this autumn, meaning its first release will be ready in time for Christmas 2017. They’ve already started taking pre-orders for this ‘Limited Edition Bottling – Organic Odyssey’, priced at £44.95. There are only 5000 bottles available, and the speedy first 500 receive an invitation to the distillery’s third birthday/release party.. Who doesn’t love a party?

If you’re feeling flush, or more likely, rally some troops to go in with you, there are a number of casks for sale, which you can go and fill yourself at Cotswolds Distillery later this year. It’s £2995, which includes 5 years ageing (the annual storage charge is £25 after that) and you get the opportunity to taste a sample drawn straight from your cask every year. It’s a great chance to play a part in this exciting project and be a part of the Cotswolds Distillery story.

From what I’ve seen and heard, I’d keep those peepers peeled on this one; liqueurs, brandies, rye whisky and bourbon were all talked about too, and considering they have a few years to play around with recipes, Cotswolds Distillery will most certainly be having fun perfecting their spirits.

We wish them every success.

No comments:

Post a Comment