Just landed at Master of Malt towers: very special sherry-soaked single malt from those pioneers of English whisky, the Cotswolds Distillery.
The Cotswolds Distillery released its first single malt back in 2017. Not that long ago but a lifetime in the world of English whisky. Since then single malts from Copper Rivet and Anno have both gone on sale, and that’s just in Kent. When the Cotswolds Distillery was founded in 2013, only the English Whisky Co. in Norfolk and Adnams in Suffolk had whisky to sell. Now there’s an English whisky scene.
The Cotswolds Distillery was the dream of New York financier Daniel Szor. The aim was to create world class single malt whisky using traditional techniques and Cotswolds barley.
To help bring some money in, Szor launched a gin, and was somewhat surprised when it became such a hit. He writes in his recently-published book, Spirit Guide, “Since gin can be distilled one day and sold the next, I knew it was likely to help our young whisky distillery’s cash flow problem to a certain extent.” And what a cash flow problem he had, in the book he’s candid about the amount he spent on the distillery, £1.2 million including stills from Forsyths.
When it came to consultancy, Szor also went to the best, the late Jim Swan (you can read a great appreciation of Swan’s legacy by Ian Buxton here). Szor writes: “Jim had a profound understanding of the alchemy that takes place between whisky and wood in a way that no one else has since managed to match.”
He goes on to explain Swan’s innovative techniques for ageing whisky: “Jim knew the best coopers in the world and, together with one of them, he would take a red wine cask, shave it on the inside, taking off the stained wood to expose that beneath it, which they would then toast over a heat source for half an hour, caramelising the wood, before setting it on fire and creating a charred layer on the inside. The result was a whisky which had the best elements of a fine French brandy, a hearty American bourbon and a delicately-balanced Scottish single malt.”
Which is a great description of the taste of the standard Cotswolds single malt. This NAS bottling was received warmly on its release and since then has become something of a classic. It’s smooth creamy flavour makes it a great cocktail whisky as well as a good sipper.
The team of master distiller Nickolas Franchino (recently awarded title of master distiller by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling) and Alice Pearson in charge new product development clearly has a restless creative side judging by the number of limited releases the distillery produces. There are seasonal gins, liqueurs including an amaro and, of course, some special cask single malts.
Many of these are only available direct from the distillery, so we were very pleased to get some bottles of this latest limited release. As always, it’s made from barley grown within 10 miles of the distillery, and double-distilled. But it’s then matured in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez-seasoned American and Spanish oak butts and hogsheads and bottled at a punchy 57.1% ABV.
Franchino commented: “I love a sherry cask whisky as it is one of the truly iconic single malt whisky styles. Good sherry casks give rich, fruity, spicy and nutty flavours that marry perfectly with the underlying malt character and are a joy to savour.”
There’s a full tasting note below but we have to say that we absolutely loved this. It’s a mixture of the aromatically spicy, think cardamom, mint and black pepper, with the sweet, rum, raisin, chocolate, toffee and vanilla plus savoury wood tannins and masses of fruit, dark cherries and apples. It manages to be very rich and fresh at the same time and it’s absolutely gorgeous at that high ABV.
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Toasted (and slightly burnt) fruitcake, with stewed, spiced apple, brown sugar, and candied ginger.
Palate: Flamed orange peel, fruit and nut dark chocolate, cherry jam, and a touch of vanilla ice cream.
Finish: Black pepper balances heaps of dried berries.