Below is an excerpt from the April 2015 edition of GINNED! Magazine about Cotswolds Dry Gin. Every month, Craft Gin Club members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of features about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.
When you visit the Cotswolds Distillery - which we recommend you do - you’ll enter a world of spirits that’s not far off the world of sweets described in Roald Dahl’s timeless classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Everywhere you turn, the research and development in which the distillery invests is evident, from the spirit library filled with test vials to the distillery shop stocked with demijohns of elixir experimentation. Although you won’t see Oompa Loompas in lab coats playing with centrifuges and malting barely, you will be greeted by a friendly and passionate staff that is not shy to use you as a guinea pig for their spirits trials, just as the likes of Augustus Gloop and Violet Beauregarde tasted rivers of chocolate and gum that delivers a three-course meal.
At the heart of the distillery’s experimentation is The Lab where Head Distiller Alex Davies spends his days creating new concoctions. The origins of The Lab date back to the summer of 2014 when the distillery team created the single botanical library, which it also refers to as The Liquid Library. With over 150 spirits distilled from individual botanicals, the Liquid Library, which Davies calls “a very interesting read”, acts as the foundation for new tests and inspiration for new ideas.
Some of these tests end up in the distillery shop, an aspect of the property conceived from the start by the Cotswolds Distillery’s Founder, Dan Szor. Since the Cotswolds is not host to any other distilleries, Dan envisioned his as a destination for the scores of tourists that come to experience the region’s natural beauty. Fortunately, in the village of Stourton, not far from his home where he had his distillery epiphany while watching the barley blow in the wind, he found a beautiful property on which to invite gin and whisky-loving guests.
COTSWOLDS’ GOLDEN TICKET
In the summer of 2013, Szor discovered a 5-acre piece of land with two converted stone buildings. After renovating just about everything on the property, today it houses a still room, a malting floor, an aging room filling up with barrels of single malt whisky, a shop, a tasting room and the lab rooms where the Willy Wonka-esque experimentation takes place.
When you visit, in the still room you’ll find Janis, Proud Mary and Lorelei, respectively the spirit, wash and gin / experimentation stills. Lorelei is particularly crucial to the distillery’s strategy. Apart from distilling the delicious gin you’re drinking this month, the still named after a German seductress of the Rhine will also produce spirits deemed fit to market at a larger scale. With Alex constantly playing around with different flavours in the lab, the distillery has already devised four new concoctions it plans to commercialize including a chamomile and honey liqueur, a “spirited sherry” made with sweet sherry Pedro Ximenez and Cotswolds whisky, a walnut and honey liqueur and a distilled espresso martini.
Davies is particularly excited about this last potion of his that has been exclusively featured in the distillery’s shop but which the team plans on expanding in the near future, riding the trend of bottled cocktails. Despite its coffee connotations, the Cotswolds espresso martini is clear. Alex distills cold-brewed coffee beans that he sources from a local gourmet coffee shop which bring out the beans’ woody flavours before mixing the distillate with cinnamon, orange peel, cassia bark and a touch of sugar and bringing it from 82% down to 29% ABV. Other experiments in the works include apple brandy, a jenever-style spirit, a distilled clear Bloody Mary, and an absinthe. On the day the Craft Gin Club spoke with Davies, he had been down at the local pub smoking water. We’re anxious to taste what he’ll do with that!
Where 500-litre Lorelei comes from the Bavarian still-maker, Arnold Holstein, Proud Mary and Janis are custom-made stills from the Speyside Scotch whisky still expert, Forsyths. In customizing the stills, Dan bucked the trend towards computerized automation now present in many Scotch whisky distilleries, opting not to use any computers at all and keeping to the handmade production quality to which he aspires. Between the 2,400-litre Mary, the 1,600-litre Janis and their four accompanying 2,500 fermenters, the Cotswolds Distillery has the annual capacity to produce 100,000 bottles of its single malt whisky, a sizable amount for what is on track to become one of England’s premier craft whiskies.
Thankfully, according to Dan, “the whisky is aging nicely.” Cotswolds Single Malt won’t be considered whisky until the autumn of 2017 adhering to the Scotch rules that deem a spirit isn’t whisky until it has sat in a cask for a minimum of three years. But if the experiments the team is running and Cotswolds Dry Gin are any benchmark, the whisky is sure to pay dividends. After all, it’s gin and Oompa Loompa-style creations already are.