TBWC Cotswolds 3 year 50.4% – Happiness in a glass!

At the London Whisky Show, two things stood out – a most enjoyable start to our explorations at the Cotswolds booth and the fabulous 10th Anniversary celebrations with That Boutique-y Whisky Co.

So what better idea than to combine the two by acquiring That Boutique-y Whisky Co’s Cotswolds’ Batch 1 for our April evening for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai.

What did we think?

Cotswolds 3 year Batch 1, 50.4% (TBWC, Home Nations Series) 1,785 bottles

  • Nose – Honey, floral, very soft and sweet, some ripe cantaloupe, then a little prickly herbal quality – like fresh mint, mid-summer, cucumber, apricot – pulpy and inviting, and was there the tiniest hint of peat or perhaps smoked almonds? Shifting back and forth between tropical then citrus fruits
  • Palate – Had a surprising spice burst of mixed peppercorns and red chilies to start, then mellowed into Big Red chewing gum with that cinnamon sweetness, and finally settled into a fruity compote with drizzled honey or caramel
  • Finish – With the 1st sip there was a quick burn, but once we calibrated to the cask strength – realized it had a lovely finish with some spice and vanilla bean
  • Water – We didn’t even try – this whisky was perfect exactly “as is”
We absolutely loved this whisky. At only 3 years it was a delight with a wonderful nose, rewarding palate, and satisfying finish. Perfect for mid-summer sipping… what a delicious dram!
We set it aside to try the other whiskies in our That Boutique-y WHisky Company evening, and returned to such a joyful, happy dram – simply fabulous!! And for many, this was the favourite of the evening!
So, what do the folks over at That Boutique-y Whisky Co have to say?

The distillery is the brainchild of Daniel Szor who acquired an estate with two stone buildings and proceeded to convert them into a distillery and visitor centre.

The distillery was set up with guidance from renowned industry legends Harry Cockburn, former Distillery Manager at Bowmore, and Dr Jim Swan, fondly known as ‘the Einstein of whisky’ for his formidable knowledge of the science of distillation and maturation.

The distillery is committed to using only local barley. All the barley will have been grown in the Cotswolds. The distillery uses Britain’s oldest working maltings at Warminster. 100% of the malt they use is traditionally floor-malted.

The malt is milled and mashed at the distillery, and two strains of dried yeast are used for fermentation. Long fermentation of just over 90 hours to allow fruity flavour compounds called esters to form. This was one of Dr Jim Swan’s masterstrokes. It gives the spirit a fantastic fruity complexity.

And here are their official tasting notes for this 1st batch:

  • Nose: Sweet and rich on the nose – there’s caramelized almonds, sweet pineapple and cherries with a hint of vanilla too.
  • Palate: The sweetness continues, but citrusy warmth interjects – there’s lemon, orange and grapefruit.

I purchased this bottle online in Germany from Whic.de for Eur 52 (on sale)  and opened it in Mumbai for a Whisky Ladies‘ session in April 2023 together with:

As for our other Cotswolds whisky-tasting experiences? Check these out:

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TBWC English Whisky 12 year 63.1% – A poetic nose with a dragon fire palate!

Whilst Scotland is considered by many the true “home” of whisky, go a little south and you will find the English are also getting into the game! To celebrate this, That Boutique-y Whisky Co started a “Home Nations” series… My original aim was to get an English trio however despite some efforts, couldn’t track down in Germany the Adnans, Circumstance wheat spirit, Oxford grain, or White Peak Single Malt Spirit.

So instead, brought two fine English single malts to an April evening for the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai – this English 12 year and Cotswolds 3 year.

It was fitting to close our evening with the oldest new English distillery – named ‘St George’s’ but bottled under the label “The English Whisky Company” (perhaps so as not to be confused with their American St George cousin?). Regardless of the name, it was the 1st English distillery to produce whisky after 100 years, with its inaugural bottle released in 2009. Which I believe makes this 12 year the oldest English whisky available!

What did we think?

English Whisky Company 12 year Batch 3, 63.4% (TBWC Home Nations Series) Bottle 146 of 299

  • Colour – Burnished copper
  • Nose – Vanilla custard and biscuits, butterscotch, a hint of rum raisin, and hiding behind the dessert elements, a whiff of blossoms
  • Palate – Deceptively soft and fruity and sweet at first and then wildfire, settling down into a Canadian butter tart
  • Finish – Quite a bit of masala spice, gentling into marmalade with cloves
  • Water – A must!!! It absolutely transforms this whisky from something promising but a bit imbalanced into something stunning. The hints of rum raisin on the nose and palate blossom into a rich single rum, charred pineapple, simply delicious.
This whisky was described as being quite romantic and poetic on the nose, Then like dragon fire on the palate… or akin to the first time you smoke a cigar! Of all the three single malts we tasted that evening, this one is best with water. Beautiful!
And what do the folks over at That Boutique-y Whisky Co have to say? Let’s start with their amusing take on describing the distillery:
The English Whisky Company distill English single malt whisky at the aptly named St. George’s distillery with their own logo featuring St. George and the dragon he’s said to have so bravely vanquished. Well, we weren’t going to turn down the chance to have a scrap with a dragon on one of our labels were we? Our dragon, potentially a connoisseur, appears to have some gorgeous golden Boutique-y whisky amongst his hoard of treasure.

Then move on to their tasting notes for Batch 3:

  • Nose: Delightfully delicate, with butterscotch, light honey, floral – spring blossom, backed up with the oak spices,
  • Taste: Gently warming with creamy custard cream biscuits, spicy oak, vanilla essence, clove, and a long satisfying finish.

I purchased this bottle online in Germany from Whic.de for Eur 76 and opened it in Mumbai for a Whisky Ladies‘ session in April 2023 together with:

Curious about other English drams? Read on:

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London Whisky Show – Cotswolds

Setting the stage for our London Whisky Show was Cotswolds – a perfect start with a newer distillery just a few hours from London… We had previously enjoyed their delightful gin and found our 1st try of their Signature whisky also quite promising.

Don’t expect detailed notes as our approach was to sniff, swish, and spit… gaining impressions and insights from discussions about the whisky rather than an in-depth exploration.

Deb did a marvelous job opening up our Whisky Show experience. Started in 2014, she shared how Cotswold’s founder Dan was driven by his love of both whisky and his new home in the Cotswolds. Using barley from the area, under Jim Swan’s direction, Cotswolds turned to STR (Shaved, Toasted, Re-charred) wine casks to augment the more typical ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks.

Cotswolds Signature Single Malt 46%

Dubbed as a breakfast dram, it was indeed a lovely way to start our whisky adventures.,,,,

  • Nose – Cherry, caramel
  • Palate – Warm and full, creamy with a hint of tannin, giving a ‘nod’ to the wine cask
  • Finish – Lightly bitter

Deb shared this was a good example of Cotswold character and approach – using STR which they describe as:

highly active STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) ex-red wine barriques. Blended with whisky matured in premium first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels, this single malt has notes of honey, red fruits and a hint of treacle.

And what would it set you back? It is quite reasonable at approx GBP 40.

One way to understand a spirit’s “base” character is to sample the New Make before it touches wood. This is why it was so interesting to try Cotswolds White Pheasant New Make Spirit 63.5%. What did we think?

  • Notes – Tropical then orchard fruits – Williams Pear, honeyed sweetness or like a drizzle of sugar on porridge
  • Palate – Surprisingly creamy and smooth, something quite comforting, more of the pears combined with sweetened porridge

While we didn’t talk price, I later checked online to discover they sell their new make spirit for approx GBP 40 (currently sold out).

We then moved on to a cask strength…

Cotswolds Founder’s Choice 59.1%

  • Nose – Creamy, berries, dark cherries, a hint of cocoa which came across as surprisingly harmonious
  • Palate – Very “forward” with the wood, intense spice that started to mellow the more time it spent in the glass, joined by a bit of marmalade or citrus
  • Finish – Good, solid, and long, with the wood influence continuing
  • Water – Brought balance and even more sweetness – toffee dessert, the sweet skin of a kumquat

Had the clear intensity of a young cask-strength whisky which is exactly why we added some water to see its effect – would certainly recommend doing this!

What do they have to say?

Part of our Cask Expressions Collection, our cask strength Founder’s Choice Single Malt Whisky is aged exclusively in our founder Dan’s favourite casks: STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) ex-red wine barriques. These highly active casks were created by our mentor and renowned whisky consultant, the late Dr. Jim Swan, and give a rich and intense maturation to our fruity new make spirit, offering strong notes of toffee, chocolate and red fruits, as well as a beautiful, deep colour.

Retails for GBP 70.

From there, we switched gears to explore the sherry side of maturation… also in batches, Deb shared this edition has both Olorosso and PX influences.

Cotswolds Sherry Cask Single Malt 57.4%

  • Nose – Like the Founder’s Choice, it was also quite wood-forward, then joined by Christmas cake, sticky toffee pudding, coffee
  • Palate – Silky smooth, rolling around the liquid coffee cake with dried fruits followed by a nice spice prickle
  • Finish – Intense, strong, and lingers
  • Water – Opens it up nicely, juicy berries, dark grapes?

We found it an interesting evolution from the Founder’s Choice, with the sherry adding an intense flavour-packed dimension.

What do they have to say?

Our Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky is a marriage of carefully selected and blended sherry casks and features in our Cask Expressions Collection. Each yearly batch is unique, drawn from the finest American and Spanish oak hogsheads and butts, some of which have been seasoned with dry Oloroso sherry and others with sweet Pedro Ximénez. All have been sherry-aged through their full maturation for a deeper and more flavourful whisky. Full of dried fruits, chocolate and a touch of spice.

Retails GBP 70

Next up in our tasting experience was an offering from the Harvest series. As Deb explained, this keeps changing to reflect the harvest of the year. This 2022 Harvest uses ex-bourbon, STR red wine, with a touch of peat from peated casks.

Cotswolds Harvest Series (2022) 52.5%

  • Nose – Light berries with a hint of smoke
  • Palate – Peppery, like black peppercorns, quite direct, cream, vanilla, and smoke
  • Finish – Light spice with a touch of peat

It made me think – if there was a smoky vanilla ice cream – this would be it! Something to enjoy in late summer, before slipping into fall.

What more do they have to say?

Our Harvest Series is released once a year and celebrates the beautiful landscape of the Cotswolds through the art of painting and whisky blending. For this single malt release, each presentation tube features an original painting by local artist Josephine Trotter which perfectly illustrates the iconic rolling hills of the Cotswolds that surround our rural distillery.

Retails for GBP 100.

Now that we started to shift into light peat, it was time to focus more fully on this side of their range. As Deb shared, they use ex-Peated casks (Laphroaig) rather than peat the whisky itself, to achieve a gentler approach.

Cotswolds Peated Cask 59.6%

  • Nose – Cream followed by tobacco, medicinal
  • Palate – A battle between peat, sweet, and wood
  • Finish – Very dry and bitter with a smoky close

What do they have to say?

Aged for full-term maturation in ex-peated quarter casks, our Peated Cask Single Malt Whisky is part of our Cask Expressions Collection. A delightful and moreish cask strength single malt with subtle hints of peat smoke on the palate which complement the vanilla notes from the oak and the fruitiness of our single malt spirit. Think ‘smoky vanilla ice cream’, as our distillers like to describe it!

Can I just say, I did a double-take! I swear I’d never read their notes nor did Deb speak of ‘smoky vanilla ice cream‘…. and yet there it was! This just goes to show – this really is the impression left by both this particular Harvest and their Peated expression!

Retails for GBP 70.

We concluded Cotswolds was a rather civilized start to our day of explorations… which went on to sample some 50+ whiskies over the course of the next few hours… wow!

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Another English entrant – Cotswold Signature Single Malt 46%

English whisky is starting a wee revival… nothing on the scale or breadth of the Irish, however there are modest entrants here and there… now numbering around 20+.

Apparently, the 1st in this English whisky revival came in 2007 with “The English” from St. George’s distillery in Norfolk that we tried earlier in the evening.

In a previous evening, one tasting companion and I had the pleasure of sampling a whisky from The Lakes Distillery – which has an Arran and Macallan connect that started in 2014.

For Cotswold, their distillery also began in 2014 with both gin and whisky… to be honest I heard more about their Gin which has been well received. So was delighted when the blind tasting revealed their whisky!

What did we think?
Cotswold Batch 06/2018 46% (5950 bottles)
  • Nose – Distinctive, floral, brown sugar, custard, tuberoses? Milky Toffee, hazelnut and honey
  • Palate – A nice kick, heavy, chewy chili whisky, very dry…. as it settles starts to reveal a delicate fruitiness on the palate too with that millky toffee and creamy custard also there…
  • Finish – Dry cloves, cinnamon bark, the kind of finish that prompts you to pucker up! Then again… like the palate… keep sipping and it settles in nicely, even reasonably long

Initially, we found it a tiny bit imbalanced but with the revisit, enjoyed the sweetness and spice… especially the aromas are enchanting and invite you to return to sniff and sniff again. Give it a bit of time and this whisky nicely opens up. As it is quite a ‘light weight’, there is zero need for any water – best had neat!

As we tasted it blind, we again turned to speculate the cask mix. Perhaps ex-bourbon maybe even a first fill? Though we had sweet spices on the finish, didn’t discern much of a sherry cask influence.. perhaps something else? But what do we know?

Turns out it is indeed from first-fill barrels – unspecified on the label. And as Cotswold works with batches, what we had in the 2018 6th batch could differ from what is available today.

What more do we know? I believe we tasted one of their Signature Single Malts. In which case they have this to say:

Our award-winning Cotswolds Signature Single Malt Whisky, the first whisky ever made in the Cotswolds, is crafted using the finest locally grown, traditionally floor-malted Cotswold barley. Matured in highly active STR (Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred) ex-red wine casks and premium first-fill ex-Bourbon casks, this single malt whisky provides an incredible depth of flavour with notes of honey, Seville orange marmalade and dark red fruits.

An interesting introduction – I would certainly keep an eye out for other opportunities to explore further.

At the moment, this expression (but not batch) is available for GBP 39 – which is quite reasonable all things considered.

What else did we try in our Scottish ‘adjacent’ themed evening?

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Reviving England’s Whisky Production – The English “Original” 43%

St.George’s Distillery in the UK (not to be confused with the Californian St George), was founded in 2005 by James Nelstrop and his son. Whilst initially they had a micro distillery in mind, the permit would only come with a full blown operation – so that’s exactly what they decided to set-up!

Taking advice from whisky expert Iain Henderson, production began in 2007 with both peated and unpeated standards. We were introduced to the unpeated “Original” one fine evening in Mumbai, early January 2022 – sampled blind.

We started with The English… what were our impressions?

  • Nose – Citrus, resin, sharp alcohol, pine, green apple, boiled sweet, shy, allspice, as opened up becomes sweeter
  • Palate – A piquant spice, curry leaf, very bitter – Allspice? Dry mace flower (Javithri)… has quite a dry mouthfeel
  • Finish – Bitter… like bitter almond (which is a bit off), or that slightly salty dried Chinese sour cherry, one sampler even found a bit of licorice

Overall? We found that the nose required a bit of a workout, we really needed to carefully pay attention to be rewarded with a few different elements. It had many of the right ingredients however it felt a bit like it wasn’t quite there yet…

As we were tasting blind, our speculation turned to cask – we thought likely an ex-bourbon cask. We weren’t convinced it was a typical Scottish single malt… but no clue beyond that.

And the reveal?

Interesting and a good introduction to this English distillery. This whisky also stood up well with a cigar – which is always a good thing with these gens!

What did the folks at The English have to say about their “Original” standard?

The English – Original. Aged to perfection in specially selected Bourbon Casks. An unpeated single malt whisky. A great easy-drinking classic single malt

With their official tasting notes:

A gentle aroma with hints of vanilla and tropical fruits. Like a soft whipped vanilla ice cream. Melts on the palate. Slightly nutty with a long malty finish. Finish is clean, dry and slightly salty.

This whisky retails for GBP 42.50.

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Dunkerton Drams – Lake Distillery Steel Bonnets

I was surprised to realize this is the 1st whisky from England that I’ve explored. While I’ve heard about The One series with Sherry, Port and Orange, never had a chance to try. However it turns out this particular expression is a deliberate blend of English and Scottish malt whiskies… so you could call this a transition from Scotland to England.

And what is with Steel Bonnets? These were the helmets worn when robing, raiding and riding… reminders of a time during the 13th to 17th century where the land between England and Scotland was a wild independent mix of kin over kingdom… neither British nor Scottish.

Started in 2011, Lakes Distillery calls home a 160-year-old Victorian farmstead on the north shore of Bassenthwaite Lake in England’s Lake District. There is a proud desi connect with Dhavall Gandhi its whisky master – financial analyst turned whisky scientist and artist.

Curious to discover more… we cracked open our sample and let the experience take us away…

Lakes Distillery Steel Bonnets 46.6%

  • Nose – Dried fruits, light sherry, woodsy even a bit ashy, stewed overripe fruits, wood shavings, manuka honey, sweetgrass smoke… after some time there was also some bitter chocoloate with nuts
  • Palate – Sweet peat, herbal, a nice oiliness underneath, lots of flavour and body, nice spice with substance with more of that sweet smoke
  • Finish – Finally a finish!

There was something so familiar about the aromas. My tasting companion dubbed it an “unblendy blend” as it was and wasn’t like a blend. Certainly one that needed a bit of time to breath and open up… on the palate it became even better after some time. Again with the finish, there was something so familiar. We never were quite able to place it, but certainly enjoyed the experience.

What do the folks at Lake Distillery have to say?

  • Nose: Notes of vanilla, sweet spice and woodsmoke
  • Palate: Creamy, slightly nutty and full-bodied. Vanilla, ginger, nutmeg and hints of dried fruit with a sweet layer of woodsmoke
  • Finish: Long and warming

Yup – we’d agree. And genuinely enjoyed this whisky… curious to explore more as and when opportunities arise.

What else did we try in our 2nd Dunkerton drams evening?

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