If you know anything about the whisky market then you know that it is a tough one to crack. There are lots of whiskies out there from the world over. When it comes to single malt whiskies, clearly Scotland is the forerunner. The country itself is teeming with different players, who each vie for your attention with the oldest this and unique that. South of the border, the bragging rights of the only active English single malt already lies with the folks at St. George’s Distillery / The English Whisky Company, so in 2014, what do the team at The Cotswolds have to bring to the table?
Well, for a start, they are the first distillery to EVER make whisky in the Cotswolds area – a scenic part of England officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Secondly, having been founded in 2014, they’ve not wasted any time putting out a whisky product, waiting for that all important 3 years + 1 day designation. Their first whisky release for general consumption was released in 2017, and its not hiding behind an early age statement or any ‘development stages” marketing BS. In fact, they have provided full transparency, stating where the barley comes from (Warminster), what yeast they have used (Anchor and Fermentis varietals), what water source they have (from the Stourton), and even which barrels are used (first fill ex-Kentucky bourbon 200l barrels and former American red wine 225l barrels) and it is simply called “the Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky”. The eponymous single malt is released in batches, confirming the year and when they were bottled, and is harnessed at 46% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration.
Light and gentle flavours rise up from the glass. I was a little surprised that a youthful whisky wasn’t blowing my head off straight away. Thankfully so. There’s not a rich complexity either, but a nice medley of delicate flavours at play. Dry grass, hay, barley sugars, oh and raspberry jam. A nice little creamy note too – how English to have made a whisky smells of all the elements of an English afternoon tea! Now that I’ve said it, is that a smell of scones or at least currants?
That medley of light flavours continues here. Its a little bit sweet (barley sugar), a little bit fruity (orangey) and a LOT malty. Its all about the malt here, in fact. The oak starts to show its origins here too with a light oaky flavour and a good amount of spice.
A pretty lengthy and satisfying finish here. The oak spices really reveal themselves now and tingle the tastebuds. Its peppery and its punchy and it sticks around.
Well, what a starter out of the blocks! No messing around or hiding behind anything, just a pure emphasis on transparency and taste and what a great taste that it is. This is a great little sipper. Tip of the cap to the team for being able to harness their young spirit and make the most of their ingredients and former cask contents to create a fantastic profile. Perhaps the taste will change with time as the batch method of releasing bottles develops over the years, but its a great start. Interesting how the choice of red wine casks, rather than the greater-spotted sherry casks, has been used to develop a rich colour and palate and round off the edges of the young spirit and its bourbon sweetness. I first sampled this in the Cotswold shop in Bourton on the Water and for all the scenery, rolling hills, yellow stone buildings, and great pubs lining the shallow running river through the town’s high street, this was the cherry on the cake for that particular trip. [Ed: Not to forget their gin either, which was a great little drop too, but we’re not called GinUnplugged!] Compared to other new entrants into the market, this new release is not set to break the bank either. £45 is still a push for a relatively new whisky on paper, but the proof is in the pudding here (and there are so many pudding flavours too!). Overall, the great marketing and support behind the brand (and their blog!) really back up a quality whisky and I will certainly be keeping my eye on how the distillery develops.