About the Distillery
This month we are proud to be the first in Australia to offer a new brand that has the whisky world abuzz. Surprisingly – this is from a country we hear very little about single malt whisky from – ENGLAND! Only operating since 2014 – the Cotswolds distillery already has a huge name. It’s gins have won many medals and it’s single malt whisky seems destined to do the same. Jim Murray has even given it the Liquid Gold Award two years running! Already this year the Cotswolds Distillery has been awarded ‘Craft Producer (Rest of the World)’ at the ‘Icons of Whisky Awards 2018’. The Cotswolds 2014 Odyssey Barley has also taken out the 2018 World Whisky of the Year. It just keeps getting gongs and this is only Cotswolds Distillery’s first release of a single malt whisky.
The Cotswolds Distillery is a mere babe by any standards. Opened in July 2014 – it was the brain child of Daniel Szor who worked in finance in London before opting for the much more civilised life of distillery founder/owner in the Cotswolds. ‘Small but Perfectly Formed’ is the motto of the distillery – and judging by both the distillery itself, and it’s products – they do the motto justice. The distillery uses traditional equipment and techniques, prides itself on using local barley and isn’t afraid to bend the rules.
So let’s talk about releasing a whisky at such a young age. Three years and one day for the Cotswolds 2014 Odyssey Barley expression. How do they do it? Well it starts with the fermentation. Firstly the yeast strains (Anchor and Fermentus) are chosen based on the flavours produced rather than just the yield [of alcohol].
Secondly – the fermentation is allowed to run a fair bit longer than is considered ‘normal’. Fermentation of sugars (into alcohol) is complete after 2 days. This is where most distilleries end fermentation and begin distilling. Cotswolds Distillery leave their wash running for an extra 1-2 days. This allows acids to form which combine with the alcohol to form esters – which are the ‘flavour compounds’ of whisky. All those fruity, floral notes you taste are esters. So this ‘extended fermentation’ wash is much richer in these esters than a ‘normal’ 2-3 day wash is.
The third step that separates the Cotswolds from other distilleries is it’s distillation. This is a two stage process. The ‘low wines’ are distilled first (in the ‘wash still’). These low wines are then re-distilled in a smaller still to produce the final ‘new make’ spirit which is then aged in wood. This in of itself is pretty standard stuff – but now it gets interesting. The low wines distillation process happens in three linked steps. The first alcohol out of the still is called the ‘foreshots’ and is quite harsh so is set aside. These foreshots are also chock full of light esters that are first to boil off. The second ‘cut’ is the ‘Heart Cut’ – and this is the portion of the distillation that is kept and aged. Once the ‘Heart’ is done, you then get ‘feints; which are the heavier, oilier compounds. The feints are also put aside. It is just the ‘heart’ that is matured into single malt whisky.
Cotswolds distillation process differs from ‘the norm’ in that they switch from foreshots to heart cut relatively early and then switch to the feints early [-er than normal] as well. This results in a new make spirit that is rich in fruity esters without the heavier, harsher oily component.
This combination of yeast varieties, extended fermentation and unique ‘cut points’ in the distillation produce a new make spirit that is very fruity and smooth enough to drink strait out of the still! Much like a grappa. Of course, the aging process adds and subtracts flavours and smooths edges – but the technique used by Cotswolds allows this maturing to be a considerably speedier affair than is normally the case.
In a spectacular demonstration of this, the two ‘Liquid Gold’ awards from Jim Murray have been for its very young spirit – one strait from the still, new make spirit (2018 Liquid Gold 95/100), one aged in ex-red wine casks for just 20 months (2017 Liquid Gold – 94/100). The ex-red wine cask spirit forms the backbone of the Cotswolds 2014 Odyssey Barley expression we are offering this month which also took out World Whisky Awards 2018 ‘Best English Single Malt’ and sealed the ‘Craft Producer of the Year’ at the 2018 Icons of Whisky awards… phew!
Cotswolds 2014 Odyssey Barley - Our thoughts
Cotswolds 2014 Odyssey Barley is aged for 3 years and one day in a combination of ex-red wine casks and bourbon casks – bottled at 46% abv.
On the nose, fruit is immediately apparent – apricots and raspberries, pineapple with a honey-sweet overtone. Cake icing and licorice with wafts of vanilla around the edges.
The palate is malty good. Sweet, fresh fruits again, with a milk arrowroot biscuit on the side. Really fills the mouth yet isn’t oily. The 46% abv really pushes this whisky along, giving some real backbone to the delicate fruity flavours.
The finish is fantastic. Warm – but not hot – with cranberries, mild pepper, and a chewy sweetness that just doesn’t stop! Seriously – it just goes on and on and on… wow!
Distillers Tasting Notes
We use traditional production processes and equipment to produce our Cotswolds 2014 Odyssey Barley. Locally-grown malted barley is milled and then mashed in our 0.5-tonne mash tun, mixing the milled grain with hot water to produce worts. Yeasts are then added. We run the fermentation for more than 90 hours in order to generate plenty of fruity flavour compounds alongside the alcohol produced.
Nose: Notes of honey and butterscotch layered with light fruits (peaches & apricots), a hint of marzipan.
Palate: Strong notes of tannin-rich malt, oils and dark sugar with lots of spice, caramelised Seville orange marmalade.
Finish: Long and resinous, with dark red fruits and a hint of treacle.