This whisky is the second release by the Cotswolds into the Hearts & Crafts series from the English distillery. The Cotswolds 'Heart & Crafts' Pineau de Charentes Cask has been fully matured in French Oak casks that have previously held Pineau de Charentes. This is produced the Charentes Maritime region of France, which is near Bordeaux. It is made from fresh grape juice blended with Cognac, which is then left to mature in barrels. The new whisky is inspired by the Art & Crafts movement championed by famous ex-resident of the Cotswolds, William Morris. Morris inspired designs are featured on a special packaging tube and neck tag.
The Cotswolds distillery is located in the village of Stourton and was founded in 2014 by Daniel Szor. The company ethos is to only use barley grown on Cotswold farms and filtered water from the village supply. This barley is then malted on a traditional malt floor at the local maltsters in nearby Warminster. Whisky and gin are produced along with a range of liqueurs. The distillery run tours daily (currently operating with Covid restrictions in place) and also have a shop and tasting room on site.
The Cotswolds 'Hearts & Crafts' Pineau de Charentes Cask is bottled at 55.2% ABV and is available exclusively from the distillery or via www.cotswoldsdistillery.com. It is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. There are just 1,600 bottles with each costing £75.
Our tasting notes
The colour is deep gold and the nose is immediately highly aromatic and packed with floral and sweet aromas. Sweet, crisp green apple and honeysuckle rise first and these are followed by freshly clipped grass, milk chocolate and heather honey. Further aromas follow in the form of ripe peach, blanched almonds and vanilla pod. It makes you want to take a sip.
On the palate this whisky maintains the freshness and vibrancy from the nose. Sweet dessert apples combine with malted cereals and golden syrup early on, and this evolves towards an almost white grape-like quality. The floral notes are also never far away. These are more reminiscent of apple and citrus blossom now. Deeper notes begin to come through with time. These include dried fruits (think of raisin, sultana and a hint of candied orange peel), milk chocolate and toasted nuts (imagine a combination of almond, brazil and hazelnut). A late note of apple tarte tatin or Danish pastry develops and is followed by an even later spicy note - think of cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice with a pinch of white pepper.
The finish is of decent length and becomes more malty and biscuit-like with time. The vibrant fresh and dried fruits fade, as do the florals and sweeter notes. This brings the malted cereals through well, along with those warming late baking spices.
What's the verdict?
Everything that we have sampled from the Cotswolds distillery to date has been highly impressive and this new limited edition does not disappoint. We have no experience of Pineau de Charentes, either as a drink or as a cask type for maturing whisky, so did not know what to expect. The wonderful freshness and vibrancy is uplifting. The nose is so enticing and inviting, and once you take a sip then the combination of flavours is delightful. Grab a bottle before it's all gone. This is a gem.