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Cotswolds Distillery founder and CEO Dan Szor spent 30 years working for a currency trading investment firm across New York, London and Paris. In the year 2000 he was invited to a whisky event in the French capital, where he was first introduced to the charms of scotch whisky. Smitten by the spirit he decided to take his interest further and began making yearly trips to Scotland, visiting distilleries and developing his understanding of the processes involved in making whisky.
After moving to London, Szor and his wife bought a holiday home in the Cotswolds in which to spend their weekends away from the hustle and bustle of the city. As he stood one morning, gazing out the window at the golden fields of barley swaying in the breeze, he was struck by the notion of opening his own distillery in what seemed the perfect landscape for such an endeavour.
Just an hour and a half from London, the Cotswolds comprises of a range of rolling hills in south central and south west England. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty it welcomes some 30 million visitors a year, providing ready made tourism for a new distillery to tap into.
Seeking expert assistance in the development of his new project, Szor employed the services of Harry Cockburn, a master distiller and former production director at Bowmore distillery. Cockburn in turn introduced him to the Forsyth family, owners of a 150 year old copperworks in Speyside that supplied pot stills and other equipment for much of the scotch whisky industry.
Szor then turned to the renowned distillery consultant Dr. Jim Swan to help design the processes that would define the character of the Cotswolds spirit. Under his advice, the distillery established a particularly long fermentation regime that would intentionally allow a build up of bacteria in the wash. This bacteria would then react with the alcohol content and create fruity flavour compounds called esters that could then be carried forward through distillation.
This focus on flavour is seen throughout the whole distillery with a particular focus on ingredients. 100% locally grown barley is sourced then sent to be traditionally floor malted at Britain’s oldest maltings in Warminster. Under the watchful eye of Dr. Swan, a careful cask selection process was put in place, ensuring only the finest of oak was used to mature the spirit.
The Cotswolds’ Founder’s Choice single malt carries yet another of the late Dr. Swan’s trademarks. He developed an “STR process” that involved Shaving off the top layer of wood from within a red wine cask. The newly exposed oak would then be lightly Toasted to caramelise natural sugars within the wood before Re-charring would crack and blister the surface, allowing new make spirit to penetrate more deeply and ultimately, to extract more flavour.
Bottled at a cask strength of 60.9%, this intriguing dram retails for £65 approx.
Smell: Strawberry and raspberry. Charred oak. Struck matches. Ginger. Pepper. Caramel. Slightly bread-y.
Taste: Bags of flavour on arrival. Pleasing weight and texture noticeable immediately. Red berries then salted caramel. Peppery spice and drying oak. Orange and peach.
Value for Money: May appear a touch expensive at first but it is a delicious cask strength dram of such fine quality it manages to justify its price tag.
A fantastic dram that really showcases the benefits of the STR process. Neither the red wine influence or spicy oak are allowed to dominate, instead we get a perfect balance between the two, given a little extra raw power by the 60.9% bottling strength. Wonderful stuff.
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You can visit the Cotswolds Distillery website here.