The Cotswolds Distillery was established in 2014. It is the first full-scale distillery to be located in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Situated in a 5-acre site in Stourton, Warwickshire, England, and its focus is distilling single malt whisky.
The Cotswolds Distilling Company was founded by Daniel Szor, a former hedge fund manager born in New York, who left a 30-year career in finance to pursue whisky making. Initial development of the distillery was assisted by Harry Cockburn (a Master Distiller and former Production Director at Bowmore distillery) and Dr. Jim Swan (1941-2017). Jim Swan was an expert in cask maturation whose previous projects include work with Penderyn in Wales, Kavalan in Taiwan and The Milk & Honey Distillery in Israel. Production began on 5 September 2014, with the first cask of single malt whisky filled on 22 September 2014, and their first release of whisky, 'Inaugural Release' took place in October 2017.
Cotswolds Distillery is really
I got an interview with Zoe Rutherford who is assistant distiller at Cotswold.
Please tell my readers who you are.
My name is Zoe, I joined the distillery two and a half years ago as an assistant distiller and I now look after the marketing.
How did you get involved in the whisky industry?
Purely by accident! I had been working in London in public relations but my husband got a job in the countryside, so we moved. I took a job at an amazing little whisky shop/bar to bring in some cash while I decided what to do next with my career, but I fell in love with the whisky industry and decided to make that my career instead. I'd never met people who were so passionate about their jobs, it was a revelation. Then the distillery were hiring new distillers - no distilling experience required - and I decided to have a go, I really wanted to experience the production side and get involved in actually making the stuff.
How would you define the Cotswolds style?
It's a really fruity style, and that was Dan (the founder and CEO)'s idea - he wanted to make whisky that reflected the land it came from. The Cotswolds as a region is best known for growing grain and fruit, so he wanted a whisky in which the dominant flavours came from the malt rather than the cask, and which would be really fruity. We don't have any peat bogs in the Cotswolds, so it makes sense that it's also an unpeated style.
What is it that make Cotswolds whisky special in your opinion?
For me, it's how shockingly good it tastes. Every day we meet people who are trying it for the first time - they know it's young, they know it's from England, and they're expecting it to taste interesting maybe, maybe even 'not too bad' if they're optimistic - but before they've even sipped it they get this enormous, fragrant, sweet nose drifting up out of the glass and they know that this is going to challenge their preconceptions. Then when they taste it, it completely changes their mind about what can be achieved in young whisky, and how long whisky needs in a cask. The most common question we get is 'How do you make it taste like this in just three years?' They expect some kind of trick, like using oak chips or mini casks or added caramel - but there are no tricks. We're just paying attention to every tiny detail and committing to doing it as well as we can, even if it costs much more or takes much longer. That's everything from the type of yeasts we're using (more than one!) to the long fermentations and the highly active casks.
What has been the response to your whisky so far?
Really positive, thank goodness! We all feel so protective about the whisky, it's been our entire life for three years and now we're finally showing to the world. But the people we care about - real whisky fans - have all been so supportive. When someone like Dave Broom tells you it's a great whisky and we should be really proud of it, we couldn't be happier. Equally, when someone says to us 'I never really drank whisky, it's too complex/harsh/expensive/
From left to right - Phil, Nickolas,
Angus, Leon and Sarah.
What can we expect from Cotswolds Distillery during 2018?
You will find our whisky reaching even more places around the world, and we'll try to do as many shows and festivals as we can so we can personally introduce people to our whisky. And we'll also release a new limited edition bottling in the late summer from some of our different casks. We can't say yet which casks it will be, but people should watch our newsletter for details - you can sign up at cotswoldsdistillery.com. The plan is to release batches of our core whisky every month, and then once a year release a limited edition bottling too.
Have you tried any whisky from Sweden? If so, what did you think of it?
Yes! I first tried Mackmyra when I worked in the whisky shop and thought it was brilliant - it was one of the first 'world whiskies' I tried, and totally opened my eyes to the category. And recently I've really enjoyed some of the releases from Box Distillery - Dan was lucky enough to visit the distillery for the World Whisky Forum last year and it looked like an amazing spot, we were all very jealous. And we'll actually be working with Jan Groth of Box to bring the World Whisky Forum to the Cotswolds Distillery this year!
What is your opinion on the trend of NAS whisky?
We are firm believers that age and maturity in whisky are not the same thing - maturity is about balance, depth of flavour and smoothness. You can have very young whiskies that are mature, and you can have very old whiskies that still haven't reached maturity - it's completely dependent on how well the spirit was distilled and the quality of the casks used. So because of this, we want people to focus less on the number of years printed on the label, and more to the details of how the whisky was made, or better yet - how it tastes to them. But people are obsessed with age, and as soon as you put a number on the label they focus almost entirely on that. It's not the fault of the consumer; for decades the industry has told them that 'older is better' and that age statements are the single bit of information they need about a whisky - but they did that because they needed to inflate the value of their older stocks. Yes, some whiskies are much better when they're older, but why not make that decision based on the experience of drinking it, rather than the number on the front? So in some ways, the increasing number of NAS whiskies allows the consumer to concentrate on the more important facts; the cask type, the flavour profile, the distillery character. That said, we are whisky lovers, and we cannot ignore the rise of brands taking advantage of the growing acceptability of NAS whiskies, by putting out inferior bottlings that are cheaper for them to produce, at higher prices than the age statement stock they're replacing. So really we need to focus not on the split between age statement/non-age statement, but on the split between Good NAS and Bad NAS - when a bottling is great, no one seems to care that there's no age on it. Do people notice that Ardbeg Uigeadail and Compass Box Phenomenology are NAS? No, because they're brilliant whiskies that showcase the supreme art of cask selection and blending.
Finally, do you have any advice concerning whisky to share with my readers?
Be open minded and recognise when you're being 'marketed' at - if an expression has a silly, meaningless name, question it: why should you pay lots more for a bottle because it's been "Double Matured" in two types of cask, unless those casks were really high quality, active ones, giving flavours that work well with the profile of the spirit? There is too much meaningless marketing in the whisky world - look out for the whiskies that taste and smell best, not the ones with the fanciest sounding labels.
All pictures belongs to Cotswolds Distillery©
Thanks to Zoe for her cooperation.