Last week, DTS & I were lucky enough to go on a long overdue trip back to The Cotswolds Distillery to celebrate the recent release of their Cotwolds Single Malt Whisky, which has been patiently maturing in a combination of reconditioned red wine casks and first-fill ex-Bourbon casks.
The distillery, set in the hypnotically peaceful countryside of the Cotswolds, was founded in 2014 and have produced an award-winning gin, along with a range of other products like their Spirited Sherry, 1616 Barrel Aged Gin, and a Summer Cup. All the while, though, they have been distilling new make spirit and filling barrels in preparation for a whisky, and their first release is finally here. Although the inaugural release has sold out, a limited number of bottles will be available for Christmas and we were able to purchase a bottle at the Distillery shop, which we eagerly took home and tried out in a few different serves.
On its own
Nose: Beautifully fruity notes of banana with toffee and caramel (or porridge oats with honey and banana), and a richness reminiscent of whipped cream. After a while, notes of pineapple upside-down cake and a dash of marzipan develop, along with hints of red berries that quickly transform into notes of red grapes, especially the skins.
Taste: Given the fruity nose, I was initially surprised – not unpleasantly so – to find that the palate starts out with distinct notes of cereal and grain. This grows more complex as herbal and spice notes develop, accompanied by fruity wood flavours and hints of charred wood, too.
Finish: Delightful fruit notes return on the finish, with notes of banana bread and pineapple cream that gradually fade into clean oak with a dash of black pepper.
On our visit, we were also able to try some of the unaged new make spirit, which was fascinating. Not only was it a brilliant spirit on its own, but it was great to see where the whisky’s fundamental character started and how much of that comes from the local barley.
Cotswolds New Make
Sweet and fruity with lots of pineapple, banana, cream and light caramel notes – this is almost rum-like in character. The palate is ruled by the barley notes, which are smooth, but develop neatly onto the finish, taking on more of a chewy cereal flavour.
The fruitiness of the new make spirit is partially down to the yeast used in the fermentation process. Cotswolds use two types of yeast: Anchor, and a second variety, Fermentis, which results in more tropical fruit flavours and aromas.
On the Rocks
We quickly discovered that one of our favourite ways to drink this – and a perfect serve for a summer evening – was over ice. The richer caramel flavours are less prominent, but remain on the mouthfeel, making this a dryer drink. Notes of oak are accompanied by more herbal flavours at the start, before making way for notes from the barley.
Delicious, confectionery notes of caramelised banana, creamy vanilla and toffee that fade into sweet ginger. With additional sips, hints of red apple and grape become intermingled amongst smooth cereal flavours, reminiscent of a spiced caramel apple betty. This is an indulgent Whisky Ginger full of rich flavours, but is impressively balanced by a more woody and grain focused finish.
For those who prefer a dryer long drink, this would be a good choice. Dry, but creamy notes of chocolate come through to start, followed by salted caramel. More tropical fruit flavours then appear, ensuring that this doesn’t become astringent, before a light, but luxurious finish of banana and toffee (particularly, Toffo sweets).
This works well, with the whisky’s richness and sweet fruit and caramel notes neatly highlighted by the red fruit and herbal notes of the vermouth. The whisky’s toffee and cereal notes also come through well, despite the strong flavours of this cocktail, before a very dry, woody and particularly herbal finish that lingers pleasantly on the palate. This would work well as either an aperitif or a digestif.
As we toured the distillery, it struck me that the Cotswolds team had used a fascinating combination of traditional expertise – learning from people who have been in the industry for decades – and their own experimentation to produce their whisky, not being afraid to do things a little differently if they preferred the spirit that it produced.
They focused on producing a great new make spirit that captured the flavour of their local barley and the result is a lively, flavourful whisky that is fun and tastes great. Highly recommended.
Our 70cl bottle from the Distillery shop cost £44.95. If you’d like to keep an eye on the availability of Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky, you can do so on their website or at Master of Malt.