By Father John Rayls
I love getting taken totally by surprise when small sample bottles of whisky which magically appear on my doorstep turn into amazing whisky tastings. However, I do grieve in those instances because they aren’t 750ml bottles packed with all that natural goodness. Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky is one of those occurrences. I wasn’t expecting much in spite of The Whisky Bible recommendations of 94 points, 94 points and 95 points over the last 3 years. This whisky is the real deal. The Cotswold Distillery was formed in 2013 with production beginning in 2014 by Daniel Szor, a native New Yorker having lived in London for several years. This is the first whisky ever distilled in the Cotswolds area of England. The distillery is located near his home with an amazing water source with limestone bedding. September was the first official release of their single malt offering. They are committed to a Grain to Glass operation highlighting various local farms with each release chosen for their barley. They insist on using an artisanal approach to the malted barley using a floor-malting procedure involving stone floors (English), a kiln, wooden shovels and rakes. The malt is turned religiously twice a day seven days a week. The result is a remarkable and surprising English whisky bottled at 92 proof with no age statement (NAS). It retains its natural color and is non-chill filtered.
The whisky has a beautiful deep copper color which is surprising considering its relatively young age (3 years). There are unpolished brass highlights while the legs are thick and prolific. They put on a very interesting performance. The aromas were waiting to grab my attention and I noticed them before picking up my glass. They were somewhere between medium and aggressive in their intensity, but soft, sweet, fruity and very inviting. (I actually had to fight the temptation to skip the looking and nosing and jump directly into the drinking portion of the tasting). There were ample notes of brown sugar, fresh fruit, honey and fresh apricots right off the tree. (If you’ve ever had ripe apricots like that, you’ll know what I mean!). The aromas were intoxicating without any alcohol burn. I don’t remember a nosing ever having affected me this way.
The aromas set up a set of expectations that were ripe for disappointment. However, the flavors actually exceeded what I was expecting. Initially, there was a mouth-filling creaminess that exuded richness and class with flavors of honey, brown sugar spice and fruit jam. In addition, there is a malted milk presence underneath the main action that asserts itself with the beginning of the finish. The finish was fantastic and long and it simply refused to quit. The mouth was already filled with spice, but the warming continued to grow transforming into a strong pepper presence on top of a creamy vanilla and ginger. It never presented itself as hot, but kept up a very warm and reassuring presence.
This is a definite keeper and you need to start looking for this gem. You might be tempted to use it as merely a desert drink…don’t do it! The suggested retail is $60.00 here in the States and Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky should be available around January 2, 2018. Go surprise yourself!