As promised, part two. Cotswolds have quite the range, and once I finished the tour, they generously gave me a sample of everything they have to offer. It’s worth noting that their website provides a fantastic description of everything involved in making their whisky, from types of yeast used to fermentation times and cut points; refreshingly transparent!
Right, let’s get to it then!
Signature Single Malt Whisky
Crafted using locally grown, traditionally floor-malted Cotswold barley and matured in highly active STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) ex-red wine casks and premium first-fill ex-Bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: a lovely soft fruit explosion of apple juice and pears, balanced with a beautiful vanilla undertone. Hard-boiled sweets and wine gums give it more sweetness and a bit of edge. All laced with a helping of honey.
Palate: More sweetness with a lovely caramel kick and burnt orange peel. Quite creamy, pleasant mouthfeel with an oily-like texture.
Finish: More caramel and sweetness, a little bit of warmth; anything more would be overpowering, in my opinion.
Score: 7.5/10. Great value for money.
Reserve Single Malt Whisky
Crafted in small batches using 100% locally grown, floor-malted Cotswold barley. It’s a marriage of premium first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels and STR ex-red wine casks for full-term maturation. Once fully matured, they are blended at a ratio of 80:20 – 80% Bourbon and 20% STR. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: A lovely burst of fresh fruit on the nose, with pink lady apples and honeydew melon zinging away. Also, slight hints of sponge cake with raspberry jam, even leading to a helping of Victoria sponge. Lots of honey and custard cream biscuits make their way through too.
Palate: Another helping of fresh fruits, but slightly more towards stony fruits like fleshy pears and prunes. Some blackcurrants, too with freshly pressed apple juice.
Finish: Some warmth. Slightly one dimensional, but still very good.
Founders Choice Single Malt Whisky
Made with 100% locally grown, floor-malted barley and aged exclusively in Cotswolds Distillery’s founder, Dan’s favourite casks: STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) ex-red wine casks. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: A delightful blast of toffee and some red berries, specifically raspberries and strawberries, come through strongly. Some wood influence too, quite oaky but always retaining a very dominant fruity, sweet note. There’s some chocolate there too; it reminds me of a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bar, or conversely, a Turkish delight.
Palate: A lot of caramel comes through strongly, almost burnt caramel, given the reconditioning of the STR barrels. Again, more fruit comes through, but it’s more redcurrant, quite zingy. It almost changes in your mouth to a liquorice note but is full of deep flavour.
Finish: Serious warmth from the ABV, but the finish is flavoursome and not all about the alcohol. Almost espresso/coffee bean-like, a constant change of flavours.
Peated Cask Single Malt Whisky
Hand-crafted in small batches using 100% locally grown, traditionally floor-malted barley and aged entirely in ex-peated Laphroaig quarter casks. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: lightly floral to start, but then transforms into herbal with peppermint becoming paramount. There’s little smoke on the nose. Definite signature Laphroaig sweetness though; there are apricots and raisins drizzled in honey to bring it up a notch or two.
Palate: there’s the smoke! It comes through gradually right from the start, not too abruptly though. It’s not overpowering and is balanced nicely with the more subtle cloves and black peppercorns. Some creaminess too, quite a nice texture throughout.
Finish: lots of warmth, added element of ginger partnering with the cinnamon hit. Quite caramelly towards the end. Medium finish.
Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky
A marriage of selected and blended sherry casks. Each yearly batch is drawn from American and Spanish oak hogsheads & butts, some of which have been seasoned with dry Oloroso sherry and others with sweet Pedro Ximénez. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: quite subtle to begin with, lots of soft vanilla notes, some malt loaf, raisins and sultanas. Quite sweet with light caramel and brown sugar
Palate: bitter coffee beans, fleshy peaches and nectarines give quite an unbalanced palate. There’s also some peppery heat towards the end of the palate that helps but feels a bit off.
Finish: lots more pepper and cinnamon come through slightly excessively, with some hints of raisins.
Bourbon Cask Single Malt Whisky
Created from select first-fill American Oak ex-Bourbon casks from Jim Beam in which the single malt spirit has been matured. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: lots of subtle vanilla notes as expected; it’s maybe a bit more, like spiced vanilla. Some slight honey too, very subdued, and a bit lacklustre and unpromising on the nose.
Palate: LOADS of sweetness this time round, better than the nose for sure. Sweetness develops into burnt caramel, digestive biscuits, and some fruit with dark cherries and raisins.
Finish: Medium finish with a gradual build-up of warmth. Chilli chocolate and cinnamon come through for a kick but feels a bit unbalanced.
Hearts & Crafts No.2 Single Malt Whisky
This limited edition Pineau des Charentes Cask Single Malt Whisky is the second expression in our Hearts & Crafts collection. Premium French oak ex-red wine casks seasoned with white Pineau des Charentes. Non-chill filtered and no added colouring.
Nose: There’s an explosion of sweetness that bursts at each nosing. The caramelised dark brown sugar and burnt peaches stir the senses. Lots of spiced vanilla tart notes, with plums and almonds coming through strongly. Quite an abundance of orange peel too.
Palate: Again, lots more fruit of the stoney variety comes through. Plums, cherries and peaches are evident, and the warmth of the pepper cuts through nicely, giving some range and depth. Lots of wine influence imparting rich, fruit flavoursome notes throughout.
Finish: More fruit and sweetness give it real promise in the finish, but the warmth from the pepper and clove heightens the finish.
Overall, a very diverse range from Cotswolds and one that I really enjoyed delving into. In complete honesty, I think it’s mixed in terms of quality, although generally good. It has to be said that my favourite of the range is their signature single malt. The Hearts & Crafts and the Founder’s choice are both really good drams, however in terms of quality and ‘bang for your buck’, it’s not very often a £39 single malt scores a 7.5. I know people will query the fact that I scored this the same as ‘my first love’, the Redbreast 12, however, this is very different for me. It’s great to see the future of English whisky in such great hands, and I can only imagine there are great things to come from Cotswolds.