Archive | April 2021

Cotswolds Dry London Gin – oozing the floral scent of an English summer spiced up with international creativity, passion and finesse

There are many old jokes which begin with “An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman walk into a pub…”  

This story is about an American, an Italian and an Australian who went further than walking into a bar for a pint, G&T or dram ….but are the creative entrepreneurs behind the Cotswolds Distillery. 

A native New Yorker, Daniel Szor had worked for many years as a hedge-fund manager in London, enjoying weekend escapes from the city with his family in the rural tranquility of the Cotswolds.  With an avid interest in Scotch Whisky, he also frequently toured distilleries across the Highlands and Islands, where on a trip to Islay he purchased his first cask of whisky from the Bruichladdich Distillery.

This rich sense of heritage and provenance gave Szor the spiritual spark and vision to launch his own Gin and Whisky distillery in the Cotswolds, the first in the region. Step One: an Institute of Brewing and Distilling Course at Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

Founded in 1821, Heriot Watt is renowned for pioneering research informed by the global needs of business and industry. ‘International University of the Year 2018’ by The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide.

Here he met Nickolas Franchino whose Italian family produced artisan spirits and liqueurs, and sharing Daniel’s passion was invited to join the team of experts at the new Distillery.  Paul Beckwith from Australia, with a doctorate in organic chemistry and a financial background, assisted on crowdfunding investment and is now Director of Strategy.  

Located on a five-acre site at Shipston-on-Stour, The Cotswolds Distillery opened in July 2014, the first in the region. This is at the heart of the farming community which gave the Cotswolds its name – ‘cot’ meaning sheep enclosure and ‘wold’ meaning hill.

Cotswolds Distillery, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire

The art and science of alchemy was now central to crafting the special recipe for its London Dry Gin which is distilled from nine carefully selected botanicals: juniper berries from Macedonia, coriander seed from Morocco and angelica root from Poland are macerated for twenty four hours in pure grain spirit.  Then a fruity, spicy mix of Egyptian bay leaves, hand-peeled fresh lime, the zest of pink grapefruit, cardamom seed, black peppercorn and local lavender from Snowshill.

Cotswolds Lavender, Snowshill, near Broadway

Following tradition, the copper Holstein Still has been given a female name, Dolly. Natural Cotswolds water is used to bring the distilled spirit down from 80% ABV to bottling strength – a serious 46% ABV. 

Dolly the Gin Still, Cotswolds Distillery

This artisan, non-chill filtered, craft gin has around ten times the volume of botanicals than standard, – “this quantity ensures a really robust gin”, explains Nick Franchino. The release of a high proportion of essential oils creates a pearly cloudiness –  known as louche – when ice or tonic is added.  Just like the liqueurs, Ouzo and Pastis.

The classy, chunky dark green bottle is individually labelled with the batch number and Daniel Szor’s signature. A neat tag around the neck gives an appetising description of the botanicals. And so time to uncork, taste and test, sip and sample Cotswolds Dry Gin.  

The Taste Test:

On the nose, it has the most distinctive earthy and herbal aroma, as if you are on a woodland walk evoking a whiff of pine cones, tree bark and wild flowers. 

The first sip conjures up the juicy juniper berries with a tongue-tingling, spicy kick from the black pepper and coriander. This quickly mellows with the sharp citrus zestiness, sweet notes of parma violets and fresh lavender fragrance.  

There is a luscious, lingering aftertaste, accentuating the blend of the sweet-spice botanicals. The complex textured layers with a subtle yet rich depth of flavour is so well balanced in harmony with a beautifully smooth finish.

The high oil content from the botanicals makes this a premium quality gin fine to sip neat and it’s superb just drizzled over a large ice cube.  This softens the juniper earthiness to offer a crisp, clean citrus fruit and delicate floral taste. 

Cotswolds Gin and Tonic with pink grapefruit

It’s fun to pour a G&T and watch the misty cloud appearing in the clear spirit.  Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic is a good choice as well as a garnish of a slice of pink grapefruit or lime.  Other suggestions are a fresh bay leaf, or if you like spice, a dash of black pepper.

As the gin has such a distinctive flavour, try not to drown with a mixer to experience the true taste of the G rather than the T.  

One of my favourite all time cocktails is a classic, Gin Martini. The Mixologist at the Cotswolds Disillery is Oliver Morris, who has concocted a few modern cocktails and revamped the classics

 Martini,

  • 75ml Cotswolds Dry Gin
  • 15ml dry vermouth

Add the gin and vermouth to a mixing jar and fill with ice. Give it a good stir, 14 or 15 times, before fine straining into a chilled martini glass.  Add a twist of pink grapefruit peel, although an olive is also an ideal garnish.

Cotswolds Extra Dry Martini – deliciously delectable

Dry vermouth is made from aromatized wine with herbs, barks, flowers, seeds, spices such as cardamom, coriander, juniper, ginger and citrus peel.  Therefore, Cotswolds Gin is almost designed to partner a Martini perfectly and it hits the spot with such extra dry, elegant style. Simply, delectable.

To complement the tangy grapegruit and lime of the gin, this is ideal in the bittersweet, citrus-infused Negroni.

Negroni.

  • 25ml Cotswolds Dry Gin
  • 25ml Campari Bitters
  • 25ml Sweet Vermouth

Place all ingredients into an ice-filled, old fashioned glass, stir & serve with twist of grapefruit peel or orange.

This is a straight up, no fuss mix of the perfect sweet vermouth, Campari & luxurious freshness of the gin. Oliver Morris

Cotswolds Negroni

The website has a section on Cocktails including light summertime tipples such as the refreshing Cotswolds Gin & Mint Rickey, rather like a twist on a Mojito.  Cotswolds Garden – a variation of a White Linen – is a fruity blend of elderflower liqueur, lime and apple juice, served with cucumber, which sounds positively healthy.! 

Cotswolds Garden Summer cocktail

Handcrafted in small batches, this is a most sophisticated, superior Gin, reflecting the natural beauty, heritage and fresh, floral scent of the Cotswolds – with a creative dash of international finesse. Like French wine, it’s the ‘terroir’, the local landscape which gives a unique, authentic character to this truly Outstanding Natural Spirit.

No wonder that Cotswolds Dry Gin has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Taste Master accolade at the Gin Masters, Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2019 and named World’s Best London Dry Gin at the World Gin Awards.

The Production Director, Nickolas Franchino, has recently been awarded the honour of Master Distiller by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling… the world’s highest level of recognition in the technical management of the production process, knowledge, experience and putting science into action.

“I am really looking forward to continuing with my distilling journey at Cotswolds Distillery and creating new and exciting expressions.” Nick Franchino.

 “This is an incredible achievement and we are incredibly proud of Nick’s hard work and study to achieve professional distilling qualifications.” Daniel Szor.

Cotswolds Dry Gin: RRP: £34.95 for a 70cl bottle. ABV: 46% 

Purchase on line from the distillery: https://www.cotswoldsdistillery.com/products/cotswolds-dry-gin

Stockists: Waitrose, Majestic, Oddbins, Laithwaites, Harvey Nichols,

The Cotswolds Distillery Visitor Centre has a shop selling a range of gin. whisky, rum, liqueurs and gifs, Exhibition gallery and Cafe. Tours, Tastings and Masterclasses – book on line, private group tours available.

The Cotswolds Distillery,
Phillip’s Field,  Whichford Road,
Stourton, Shipston-on-Stour
CV36 5EX

E: info@cotswoldsdistillery.com
E: tours@cotswoldsdistillery.com

The Cotswolds is best reached by car with free parking on site. The nearest train station is Banbury station where Taxis are available.

Read more about the Cotswolds Distillery in this new book, Spirit Guide: In Search of an Authentic Life by Daniel Szor. (2020). This autobiography tracks his journey from life and times in New York. a thirty year financial career, all the way through to when he opened the doors to in the Cotswolds Distillery in 2014.

Cotswolds Distillery Visitor Centre – tours, tastings, masterclasses, shop and cafe

Artistic Licence: Still Life paintings by Ian Mastin present a banquet of fruit, cheese, brandy and wine with classic style.

This most inspiring exhibition of Still Life paintings opened on Saturday 3rd April, 2021 at “Art on Cairncross”, Maleny, Queensland, Australia.

The good news is that the artwork is also now available as an online exhibition in the UK, through select galleries such as The Torrance Gallery, Ian Mastin’s exclusive agent in Edinburgh.

The concept of a physical exhibition in Australia accompanied simultaneously by the same exhibition online in the UK was not something I’d ever have considered pre-COVID – an experimental endeavour.”

Ian Mastin

Ian Mastin was born in England before his family later emigrated to Australia. With no formal training, he enjoyed sketching for recreation, and when living in Scotland for over a decade, he began to study artistic technique and styles, and is now a full time, professional artist, based in Queensland.

Known in French as Nature Morte, Still Life paintings are a stylised arrangement of objects on a table, such as fruit, flowers, glassware and textiles. 

It really is extraordinary to compare Mastin’s exceptional natural talent and skill with the 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish Masters. Their subjects ranged from flowers, human skulls and candles to depict Memento Mori, the fleeting nature of life, to simple breakfast dishes and lavish Baroque displays of fruit, wine goblets and books to illustrate culture and wealth.

A superb example is ‘Still Life with Cheese’ by Floris van Dyck, an elaborate feast of grapes, apples, nuts and wine.

Still Life with Cheese, Floris van Dyck (1615)

From this Golden Age, fast forward to see how these domestic scenes were modelled and modernised by such Impressionist artists as Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh and Valadon. 

Bring a brioche, I want to see you paint one: Still Life is the touchstone of painting.” Edouard Manet.

Still Life with Brioche and lemon, Edourd Manet (1873)

Paul Cezanne seemed to be fascinated by orchard fruits especially apples of all shapes and sizes which were the star subject for numerous paintings.

Apples, Paul Cezanne, (1878)

” I am captivated by the deep roots of the past .. the relationship between inanimate objects and our origins .. a simple relic of some antiquity immediately stirs within a hunger to connect with its provenance.”

Ian Mastin

Let’s take a look around the ‘Artistic Licence’ exhibition of contemporary Still Life acrylic paintings:

Bread, Wine and Cheese, Ian Mastin

Bread, Wine and Cheese

You could be forgiven for assuming this softly lit composition was painted around 1620 …..not 2020.  Here the dark varnished, cracked old wooden table is set for a meal: the delicately, draped fold of a linen napkin, the glistening glass of white wine, a scatter of crumbly cheese and crusty bread, all finely crafted with such intimate precision.

Still Life with Pears and Grapes, Ian Mastin

Still Life with Pears and Grapes

It may appear a more simplified display, but this has exceptional photographic quality. Look at the surface of the splintered table, the purple-black skin of the grapes with sharp stalks and shapely pears with tiny nicks in the skin. All so aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Spoilt for Choice  

Following the recurring theme of Paul Cezanne, here too is a fine collection of crisp, shiny, polished apples – perhaps Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Pink Lady et al. – in contrast to the gnarled timber grains of the table.

Spoilt for Choice, Ian Mastin

“I always love painting fruits and never tire of the subtleties and richness of their colours and textures. I’m also drawn to the bonhomie evoked by images of good wine and food. I never need much encouraging to go searching for a succulent cheese to complement a classic burgundy – used purely for artistic purposes, needless to say.”

Ian Mastin

Moulin des Carruades 1977, Ian Mastin

Moulin des Carruades 1977 

A meticulously detailed and most appetising Study of wine, bread and cheese as similarly depicted by the Dutch Masters. You could view this for hours and still find hidden facets in the tactile textures. First the dusty sheen on this vintage wine bottle, as if just retrieved from the cellar, the ripe, melting Camembert in greaseproof paper with freshly baked bread.  Note too, the hinged metal lock on this antique chest.

Moulin Des Carruades from Domaine Barons de Rothschild: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – “Rich fruit, blackcurrant, tobacco, cedar, oak, well-balanced.”

Chateau d’Angluet Margaux,

Chateau d’Angluet Margaux

The wine estate, Château Angludet has belonged to the Sichel family for six generations so this represents a real sense of heritage: the dark green bottle with its intricately sketched label and the reflection of glinting sunlight. Uncorked, it’s ready to serve with grapes and slice of cheese. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Petit Verdot, this vintage 2006 Bordeaux is described as deep red with black tints, ripe and elegant.  

Age Before Beauty, Ian Mastin

Age Before Beauty

This may certainly appeal to those in Scotland and worldwide who relish a dram of these fine Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from the Speyside and Highland regions. The fisherman’s rod and basket create a dramatic setting, to illustrate a day out on the River Dee, Aberdeenshire or, indeed, Baroon Pocket Dam, Queensland. Slainte Mhath!

Still Life paintings provided the best opportunity for the pioneering 16th century artists to show off their painterly skills.

With artistic licence and photo-realism accuracy, as a modern master of the genre, Ian Mastin demonstrates such delicate beauty and classic style in these exquisite compositions. Whether a bowl of cherries, a carafe of port or a pile of antiquarian books, this is an artist with a dedicated passion for perfecting this iconic, timeless tradition.  

Artistic Licence – a showcase of Still Life paintings by Ian Mastin

3 – 25th April, 2021

Maleny, Queensland: Art on Cairncross’ – if you live locally, visit the gallery.

Edinburgh: available online at The Torrance Gallery

View the exhibition here:

https://www.torrancegallery.co.uk/ian-mastin-artistic-licence

Prices include P&P, insurance, tracked shipping and UK customs duty.
 

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