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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