Established in just 2014, the Cotswold Distillery is a marker of how popular artisan spirits have become in recent years. They began with a plan to distil whisky. As whisky takes time to mature, they decided to distil gin as well, which would be available immediately.
The distillery sits among the extensive Cotswold lavender fields, which lends an immediate boon of local botanical flavour to the production. The distillery tries to use local resources wherever.
As well as being a beautiful place to visit, with a lovely cafe to relax in, the distillery offers tasting tours and events to get to know its drinks better. A two-hour tour, for example, will see you spend an hour touring the site, and an hour in a tasting masterclass.
On the tour, you first find out about how the grain is mashed for the distillation process. The strong smell of hops is overpowering, but the experience fascinating. You might then move on to the gin process, learning more about the different ways to distil the source alcohol. Different distillers use different techniques to infuse the gin, so it's worth asking questions and finding out how the process works here in particular. Details such as not removing essential oils matter to the taste and feel of the end product. So too the shape and size of the copper pots in which it is distilled. They have their original one there, but have outgrown it, and can show you the new machines.
The tasting room
Once you have finished the tour, you move through to the tasting room, which is next to the shop. On arrival, you are asked what soft drink you would like so that it can be chilled and ready for you. Making the drinks is clearly a passion for the distillers, but they dwell less on the process than on some tours and instead spend more time exploring the drinks themselves.
Each participant has a board with tasting glasses, and there is water available, with dry crackers, to help cleanse your palate between tastes. Staff talk you through the gins, whiskies, limoncello and other liqueurs. They are all knowledgeable, as they all work in the process, so understand what has gone into the making and what makes these drinks distinctive.
The flavours evident in the gins can be further enhanced using relevant botanicals, which the shop also sells. It may seem strange to introduce (more) lavender, but it complements the cocktails well. You are talked through how each botanical, each mixer, each drop of water changes the taste, and how to find your preferred blend.
There is a great range to try, so you need to be careful not to overdo it! For drivers, a soft drink is available to sip during the masterclass, and then you can request a selection of samples to take home with you.
You might also be able to visit the barn storage outside. Bottling is done in a sealed environment, but here casks are stored to age the whisky. They're experimenting with different casks and times, so although not all the spirit produced is stored here, there is a sample of each to be tested. Evaporation is inevitable, leading to a rich smell of all the casks together. You may be able to sample some raw products here, and it is interesting to look around the shelves at the different casks.
Experience tickets can be booked through their website. They are in the remote countryside, so you will need to plan transport carefully. Almost all aspects of the experience are at ground level, which makes it easily accessible.