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!