As many of you will know by now, I’m a bit of a fan girl when it comes to gin. To the point that I’m actually starting to become a little obsessed, and ever so slightly snobbish. I can’t help it though- I’m on a quest to try as many different gins as possible, and find the next candidate for my ever- expanding gin collection.
For those of you into gin, you’ll probably be aware that the gin market has gone through the roof as of late. With tonnes of micro distilleries popping up all over the UK, it can sometimes be hard for businesses to find a place in an already crowded market. As such, distilleries are coming up with ways to stand out from the rest, and create a gin that allows the taste to speak for itself.
One business that does particularly well at this is Cotswolds Distillery. Still a relatively new player in the gin arena, but it’s already made a huge impression- in its first few years of business, it has established itself as a front runner for quality, artisanal spirits.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to Cotswolds Distillery to learn more about gin and whisky, and take a free tour around the distillery. As you can imagine, I was pretty much over the moon about this.
Our tour guide for today was Dean, a lovely chap full of enthusiasm for booze. So naturally, I warmed to him straight away. Dean gave me a bit of an introduction to Cotswolds Distillery- the business was originally set up to craft whisky, with gin becoming a distillery project until the whisky was aged appropriately. However, this doesn’t mean that the quality of the gin is compromised at all; Cotswolds Distillery use an expert botanist to source nine local botanicals for their gin recipes, thus creating a spirit that is flavourful and balanced. There’s plenty of notes of lavender, black pepper and bay leaf, which deliver a clean taste that is both refined and memorable. So essentially, it’s bloody gorgeous.
It was now time to hit the factory floor. Dean proceeded to tell us all about the gin making process- Cotswolds Distillery use the finest wheat spirit, with a blend of local botanicals and classic London dry-style ingredients. This is then treated through a bespoke copper still, which adds to the overall taste of the gin. The botanic mix is either processed through maceration or vapour infusion, depending upon the botanicals in question. While the spirit heats, the botanicals begin to infuse, thus creating Cotswolds Gin. Here we watched the still in action, and proceeded to have a nosy into some of the wash whisky stills. The smells were pretty pungent.
Next, we had a cheeky look around the whisky storeroom, which was crammed full of barrels. The whisky is left to age for a minimum of three years before it can be classed as a Single Malt- the wood is left to influence the taste and character of each whisky, and adds to the distinctive tasting notes typical of single malts, as well as removing any impurities. Some varieties of whisky are also aged in sherry casks which give a rich, fruity depth to the whisky, with notes of raisin and toffee.
We were then allowed to get to the bit everyone was most looking forward to- getting stuck into the samples. There were however FAR more samples than anticipated- everything from whisky and gin to limoncello and absinthe. Too many samples for some, but I was happy to take on the challenge. I thought I’d try and be clever and start with absinthe.
While many believe that absinthe is banned in the UK, it’s actually a bit of myth. It is in fact legal to craft absinthe, providing that amount of wormwood used is regulated to a maximum limit of 35mg. While the absinthe is an exclusive for visitors at Cotswolds Distillery, it’s probably for the best at this stage- I nearly fell off my chair after knocking this back.
I then moved into my comfort zone with gin. All on the rocks, as I don’t generally like my gins diluted with tonic if I’m tasting them for the first time. We dived into a Baharat gin and a Camomile gin, both exclusives at the distillery shop. These two were probably my favourite samples of the day- the Baharat was full of aromatic warmth and spice, making it the perfect Autumnal tipple. The delicate notes of camomile added sweetness and texture, and went down very well indeed. I purchased a bottle of each.
Things started to go a bit wobbly from there. Dean was still pouring the drinks, so I decided to down some limoncello and crème liqueur. Both of these were gorgeous- but I think I’d finally reached my sample limit. Dean helpfully packed up my remaining drinks in take away pots before I caused further embarrassment.
Although I’m slightly worse for wear, I genuinely couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon. It’s been such a pleasure to learn more about my favourite tipple, and discover some new favourites in the process. The overwhelming passion and enthusiasm of the staff is infectious- it’s obvious that Cotswolds Distillery genuinely adore the products they’re making, and aim to create spirits that deliver on quality and taste. So stick your Gordons where the sun don’t shine- it’s artisanal spirits all the way.
Cotswolds Distillery run tours three times a day, with the shop and tasting room open 9am-5pm Monday to Saturdays, and 11am- 4pm on Sundays. Visit http://www.cotswoldsdistillery.com/tours for more information.
While this post contains sponsored content, all views expressed are my own.