England, England, England. Recently, things have been going a bit topsy turvy in the country, or as an army mate of mine said recently “FUBAR”. Army talk is fun. Something that has been going right however is their whisky scene. England has seen a few distilleries come online recently, and while each is exciting, it could be argued that the Cotswolds Distillery is drawing the most interest from the whisky world, and neatly draws us to todays World Whisky Wednesday.
The brain child of Daniel Szor (pictured above cradling a bottle), Cotswolds Distillery kicked off production in 2014, and drew interest right from the start when it was heard that Harry Cockburn of Bowmore fame and the late Dr Jim Swan (who previously guided the gents at Kavalan and Milk and Honey) had their own in put to the distillery and the whisky being made. When I last spoke with Daniel, he told me a touch about the Founders Reserve, saying that he loved ex-red wine casks so much that he decided for a full Red Wine maturation. With the advice of Mr Swan, some American White Oak barrels that previously held Portuguese Red Wine had 2 mm shaved from the inside of the cask before being toasted then re-charred. The casks were filled with a spirit using malt grown on Cotwolds farm with local water supply, aged for just over three years and bottled at Cask Strength, a healthy 60.9%. The result? An honest to god fantastic offering, setting a high bar for other up and coming English distilleries as well as showing that England can do whisky just as well as their northern and western neighbours.
The nose is first dry and somewhat astringent, however the orchestra quickly assembles and plays us a deeply content tune of buttered raisin toast with tobacco, dry toffee and a merry fruit cake soothing the nose in the background. Chords of plums and thick sultanas fall along side ripe red grapes onto a platter of canned peaches and jelly served with rich coffee.
On the palate it is reminiscent of a dry South Australian Cabernet, packed full of blackberries, raspberries, heavy cherries, plum tarts, Christmas cake and pear drops drizzled with honey. A firm base of toffee and butterscotch provides a brilliant bed for these fruits to jump off, before a scattering of spices fall down and calm the dram. The finish is long, with incense, balsa wood, before calling the fruits we saw before and reintroducing them now dried and bringing plenty of flavour, to dry out the mouth and leave us wanting more.
So there we have it, the Cotswolds Founders Reserve. A stunning whisky, and definitely worth picking up if you see a bottle lying around or if you visit the online shop, but it is worth noting that it does not take water well. It also serves to show us just how brilliant Dr Jim Swan was, and what a giant of the industry we lost in his passing. Should you find yourself wanting something with that little bit more, try the Cotswolds. And raise a glass to Dr Swan while you’re at it.
(Credit to Cotswolds Distillery for the picture)