Sabi Phagura catches up with Deborah Carter at the Cotswolds Distillery in Warwickshire to talk all things gin and whisky, and the challenges that the business is currently facing due to the Coronavirus.
LM: The Cotswolds Distillery is one of only a few UK distilleries that produce whisky and gin. Why did you decide on this combination?
DC: It all started with our Founder Dan Szor, who is not only a huge whisky lover but is also a fan of all things spirits. Inspired by the barley fields visible from his window at his home in the Cotswolds, Dan thought to himself: “why is no-one making whisky in the Cotswolds?”, and so the story began.
Whilst waiting for the whisky to mature, Dan, being a real spirits connoisseur, was busy following the vibrant growth of the gin industry at the time. With a passion for continuing creating spirits, he saw an opportunity and decided to start producing gin. Cotswolds Dry Gin was created after Dan tried and tested a variety of recipes and flavours. This gin is distilled with nine botanicals including lavender, which is grown locally to the distillery.
LM: What makes Cotswolds Dry Gin different from all the other gins out there?
DC: Our Cotswolds Dry Gin has a very high botanical load – up to 10 times the weight of botanicals versus most other gins available. We also don’t chill-filter our gin, which means that all the botanical oils are retained. The two key benefits mean that not only does it looks great when ice or tonic are added, but it also tastes amazing. As soon as you add tonic or ice, a pearlescent cloud appears. This pearlescent glow, also known as a “louche”, is due to the volume of essential oils, particularly from the freshly peeled lime and grapefruit used in production. The signature serve for Cotswolds Dry Gin is ‘The Cloudy G&T’.
LM: Let’s talk through some of the gin and whisky masterclasses you have to offer. What can be expected by the customer?
DC: We offer a fabulous range of gin and whisky experiences that our customers can enjoy here at the distillery and also at our shop in Broadway. The distillery and café are nestled in the heart of the English countryside in a picturesque village called Stourton. The shop is situated in Broadway, which is referred to by some as the most beautiful village in England.
LM: You don’t have to be a gin or whisky lover to visit the Cotswolds Distillery, as there’s also a café on site. What kind of products can visitors try here?
DC: We always welcome people in the Cotswolds area to drop by and enjoy our food and drink offerings. Guests at the café can enjoy Barra Gallegga (a Galician rustic filled baguette), salads, soups, sharing platters, as well as a selection of fresh cakes. We also offer cream tea with the option to swap your tea for a G&T! A lot of our produce used in the café is locally sourced, including our meat supplier, Paddock Farm, a renowned butcher which counts more than 40 Michelin stars among its customers and restaurants.
LM: Cotswolds Dry Gin has also received 31 accolades. Please tell us about some of them.
DC: It is great to have received so much widespread acclaim and to have won so many awards. We recently won Gold at the World Whiskies Awards 2019 and took two stars (one of only two whiskies to do so) in the 2019 Great Taste Awards. The distillery’s cask strength whisky release, Founder’s Choice Single Malt Whisky, was recently awarded the title of Best English Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2019.
In Jim Murray’s 2019 Whisky Bible, the Cotswolds Distillery received five ‘Liquid Gold’ awards. Three of the whiskies scored 95 points, with all of the distillery’s samples scoring over 88 out of 100.
LM: Now, we are all collectively going through some difficult times, thanks to COVID-19. How has this affected the distillery?
DC: We have currently closed our visitor centre and our three Cotswolds Distillery shops. Despite having to close, we are all working hard to make sure we can still deliver to our customers and also supply sales via our e-commerce site.