Tucked away in the northern side one of the most picturesque areas of England is the Cotswolds Distillery. The vision of Daniel Szor, a New Yorker who grew tired of a finance career in the City of London, he has created in a few years a busy, bustling production site beautifully integrated into the outskirts of Shipston-on-Stour.
Right from the off the enthusiasm of the people here is infectious. It’s a bright and really upbeat atmosphere and the music being played beside the stills reflects this cool and relaxed environment. This vibe carries right the way through to the experimentation in the product range. The very dinky R and D area is full of bottles and infusions for various new concoctions. Not only is the place bursting with ideas but it’s also bursting with people with new extensions planned in the short term. Nick Franchino, distillery manager, has been with the business since the start. He has great energy about him and it is with a big smile on his face he talks about how they can drive the business forward.
“Our current kit is great and we can certainly still get a some more production out of our set up here. But there’s always new things to look at and there’s certainly a number of new products that are in the pipeline which will mean new kit and add even more to what we can do here.”
The production area itself is worked hard with two mashes a day the norm and some production work happening 7 days a week. There was even some activity- albeit very low key-on Christmas Day. Kit wise there is a lovely wooden sided 1/2 ton mash tune feeding eight 2500ltr fermenters. Wash is temperature controlled to aid the pitching of 2 yeast strains and development occurs over 4 days to encourage higher ester production. There is then a 2500ltr wash still and a 1250ltr spirit still before barrel aging in a mixture of ex bourbon and wine casks.
Gin distillation happens via a Holstein still with maceration of some ingredients the night before before some of the more aromatic elements- bay leaf and grape fruit amongst them-being added on the day. The need for peeling 400 fruits for peel a week sounded pretty arduous in it’s own right. There is also a small hand bottling area tucked away behind the stills.
Exploring the on site bond, which by no means holds all stock, there is a lovely gentle aroma of vanilla. Due to the experimental nature that runs through the company it came as no surprise to see some port, Muscat and even some ex peated whisky casks in there. I’m sure the special releases from these will be something to savour.
The experimental theme is kept going in the small laboratory. There is a wonderful library of flavours and distillates on hand to draw on and it absolutely feeds in to the nature of the company where fun and innovation is prized. You can see the Cotswolds Distillery is keen to reflect it’s surroundings in terms of the flavours it’s looking for. Zoe Rutherford of the Distillery explains:
“We do want to create a product that reflects where we are- we want to produce a product that is packed with flavour but is fruit driven and approachable”
While I was there I caught up briefly with Daniel Szor, the CEO and founder of the distillery. He couldn’t be further away from the stereotype of a New York Stock market guy. He is quietly spoken but you can sense the pride in what they have set up in such a short space of time. But for a cancellation at the still makers the distillery may not have been quite as far forward as it is but with construction started in 2013 to sales in the shop happening in October 2014 it has been a heck of a ride. He was quick to mention that they are only a few months away from the 3 year mark for their first whisky and there is undoubted pride and anticipation around this. Daniel is also quick to acknowledge the help he had from some great people at the start up phase which has really set them up on a good course.
It has been a quick few years for the Cotswolds Distillery and I look forward to enjoying the progress they are sure to enjoy in the future.