Archive | April 2021

Magic Cask – a special edition Scotch Whisky blended with scientific skill, creativity and sense of adventure.

Compass Box has launched a new Limited Edition Scotch Whisky, slowly crafted from two Speyside malt whiskies, smoothly blended into a special magical potion – which brings to mind the witches brew in Macbeth.

‘In the cauldron boil and bake;   
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,   
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,   
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,   
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,   
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble’.   

John Glaser, Scotch whiskymaker, inventer and maverick with the magic touch

    Sometimes just one cask in a blend can provide the touch of magic that allows the whole arrangement to sing.” 

John Glaser, Founder, Compass Box Scotch Whiskymaker

In 2000, John Glaser believed there were too many companies making and selling Scotch whisky the same traditional way. As an American living in the UK and working for a large distiller, he wanted to be more creative and contemporary for the 21st century dram drinker.

So, Glaser as a maverick inventor, set up The Compass Box, an innovative, modern Scotch whisky company originally based in his own home, like many business entrepreneurs. Today, he has around sixteen employees at the office and Blending Room in London, with a stock of maturing whisky stored in Scotland.

The Compass Box Blending Room

When it comes to whisky and its enjoyment, we keep our minds open to new production processes and combinations of flavours. We believe that by bringing together Single Malt and Single Grain whiskies of the highest quality it is possible to create textures, flavours and pleasures that no solitary whisky can attain.

‘Whiskymaker’ is a word invented by Compass Box – someone who has a passion to create, to challenge, to experiment. A Whiskymaker is different from a distiller and more than a blender.

As Whiskymakers, (John Glaser, James Saxon and the team), they explore the chemical and culinary connnections between Scotch whisky and the maturing process in oak casks over the course of time. The oak wood is specifically sourced from the Vosges forest of France and the woods of Missouri.  To ensure premium quality, careful sampling of each cask will ensure the perfectly crafted and unique blend. 

A blended Scotch whisky – a fine selection of whiskies from different distilleries – can produce a spirit of such rich and complex character, that it can compete with the renowned purity of a single malt.

Magic Cask is a blended malt Scotch comprised of just two Speyside single malt whiskies. No Shakespearian newts, frogs or lizards here in this fine concoction.! The first is a lost and forgotten whisky from the Imperial Distillery, (founded 1897 but closed in 1998), drawn from first-fill bourbon barrels, matured for about 23 years.

The second whisky is a young 4 – 5 year old undisclosed Speyside spirit from a distillery near Aberlour, which had been transferred into Oloroso-seasoned butt casks to mature. After three years, a sampling from Cask # 2 was most distinctive and after further experimentation, the result was the creation of the Magic Cask.

Bottled in 2020 at 46% ABV.  92% First Fill Bourbon cask whisky,  8% Oloroso Sherry cask whisky  No added colouring and without chill-filtration. A limited edition of 5,538 bottles.

This colourfully artistic label was decoratively and imaginatively designed by Guy Pratt of ‘Stranger and Stranger’, a design company whose tag line is Don’t Fit In, Stand Out.  Whisky Magazine Icons of Whisky 2020 Award for Design Agency of the Year. 

This Magic Cask bottle – with its roaring tiger jumping through a hoop of fire, a flutter of doves, rabbits and playing cards from a Magician’s box just screams, ‘look at me, pick me up’ and certainly stands out from the crowd.

What the Whiskymakers say about Magic Cask

“Aromas of marmalade and chai tea spices with hints of plum. Ripe, golden dessert apples dominate the palate, with an oaky richness. Flavours of toffee and cocoa powder are also conjured up.  Savour this whisky neat, perhaps as a digestif after dinner with its medley of autumn fruits and chocolate.”

 The Dram Test

Nose: Strong floral and herbal fragrance and tart apple and woodland berries.  

Taste: Caramel, vanilla, sherry, nutmeg, cinnamon, smoky oak wood

Finish: Citrus fruits, dark Belgian chocolate and lingering spice and smokiness.

From the first pungent punch of the aroma, it mellows on the palate to release richly flavoured layers of spicy, sherried fruit cake with underlying caramel sweetness. This is indeed a dynamic dram to sip with care and consideration and sings loud and clear in perfect harmony.

What other whisky lovers say:

“Fruity and floral, enticing sweet citrus notes of orange. A little sweet vanilla, toffee and a hint of honey and dark chocolate.  Oak spice, a little raisin, sultana and coconut ice.”

“A deliciously longish finish – vanilla, orange and sultana fade first to leave a touch of coffee and some gentle sweet, mature oak and mild spice.”

 “Very fruity and grassy, with plenty of sweetness in an oily and rich texture. Spicy and savoury flavours that hint at the first-fill sherry butts. Pastel de Nata, (Portuguese Custard Tart), lemon meringue, cinnamon sticks, spiced orange. “

John Glaser amidst a warehouse of Whisky casks

Scotch whisky is one of the world’s great drinks. We’re here to help ensure it continues to evolve and surprise today’s discerning spirits enthusiasts.  John Glaser

Compass Box is leading the way in experimentation in the brave new world of Scotch through their own distinctive blend of science, creativity, alchemy and passion to produce exciting, magical drams.  

Slainte Mhath!

Take your own adventure in deliciousness!

Magic Cask from Compass Box Scotch Whiskymaker

A limited edition release of 5,538 bottles with a RRP of £145 for the 70cl bottle.

Available on line from The Compass Box Shop with links for buyers in UK, Worldwide and United States.

Also from specialist Whisky retailers

Find out more about Compass Box whiskies here:


J & B Rare Blended Scotch: a timeless classic from 1932 has matured into the World’s Party Whisky

Inspired by an Italian, created in London and distilled in Scotland, J&B Rare Blended Scotch Whisky remains a global best seller nearly 90 years since it was first launched.

Justerini & Brooks is the oldest, continuous fine Wine Merchant in Britain, historically supplying Aristocratic households and was granted a Royal Warrant by George III, an honour which it still retains today.

This most inspiring story began in 1749 when Giacomo Justerini, who worked in is family distillery,  moved from Bologna, Italy to London in pursuit of an opera singer, Margherita Bellino.

While romance failed to blossom, he secured business investment from George Johnson, to establish Johnson and Justerini, Purveyers of Wines and Spirits at No. 2 Pall Mall. Fast forward a few decades and Alfred Brooks purchased the business, now renamed Justerini & Brooks.

As well as the Royal Household, among their prestigious clientele over the centuries was the novelist, Charles Dickens. 

With entrepreneurial, far sighted vision, during the Prohibition era, the company sent Eddie Tatham to the United States to check out the potential market for a speciality Scotch Whisky.  Justerini & Brooks then began to craft a distinctive blended whisky, specifically to appeal to the American palate and in competition to Cutty Sark. Cleverly branded as J&B Rare Scotch, to express its exclusive, premium quality, it was launched in 1932, the year before Prohibition was repealed.

The start of major export trade of J&B Rare Scotch to the USA, 1936

J&B Rare is distilled, blended and bottled in Scotland: a blend of 42 malt and grain whiskies, the heart is formed from the finest Speyside single malts: Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey, expertly blended to create an approachable, rich and complex flavour. The round, fruity, unique and distinctive taste of the fine malt whiskies is delicately balanced by carefully chosen grain whiskies which gives J&B Rare its distinctive character.

The Dram Test:

With no preconceptions of aroma and flavour, I sampled a blind tasting, served neat.

Nose: Dried fruit, damson, prunes, tobacco smoke

Palate: Sherry, rich fruitiness, treacle, a hint of ginger

Finish: Smooth, elegant texture, lingering oak wood and cinnamon

J&B Rare certainly excites the taste buds with refreshing fruity flavours and rich spicy aftertaste.

Walnut, toffee apples, cedar wood, orange zest.

Apples, oranges, kiwis, summer berries, caramel and vanilla.

Fresh, grassy and nutty on the nose, malt, spice, fruit salad and sweet grains on the palate.

Fruity, aromatic, soft apple and pear and just a hint of smoke. 

Layers of rich vanilla balanced with lively notes of fresh fruit and spice.

With its versatile, well rounded, mellow character, serve on the rocks or for a refreshing long drink, with a mixer such as Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic Water or Ginger Ale.

J&B Rare Scotch with Tonic Water for a refreshing drink

Their eye catching Advertisements published widely in the media through the 1950s and 1960s, reflected a glamorous, modern high society; in 1963, J&B Rare sold over one million cases each year as the number one selling Scotch in the United States. Creative marketing.

Long before Influencers on Twitter, the fashionable Scotch received wide celebrity promotion as the drink of choice by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Cary Grant and Truman Capote et al; the smooth style with soft smoky notes has always been perfect for Cocktails.

The J&B Sinatra Sour

What could be a better tribute to Frankie than this harmoniously bittersweet cocktail.

The J&B Sinatra Sour. 

35 ml J&B Rare, 10 ml lemon juice, 10 ml Sugar syrup, 15 ml egg white, 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters  

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake well for at least a minute. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with Maraschino cherries.

The J&B Ginger Ale Twist

J&B Ginger Ale Twist

In this signature recipe, the whisky is enhanced with a spicy kick.

50 ml J&B Rare, 125 ml Ginger Ale, 4 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitter (optional), lime wedge

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the J&B Rare, Ginger ale and Angostura Bitters, a squeeze of lime juice and wedge as a garnish.

The Rusty Nail cocktail – J&B Rare Scotch + Drambuie

J&B Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail is credited to the bartenders at the 21 Club, Manhattan in the early 1960s, and quickly endorsed by Gina MacKinnon of the Drambuie Liqueur Company. The cocktail was popular at P. J. Clarke’s, a favourite late-night haunt of Frank Sinatra.  The brand name Drambuie is derived from the Gaelic, meaning ‘the drink that satisfies’, and this cocktail does too with its honey sweetness.

35 ml J&B Rare, 15 ml Drambuie

Pour the ingredients over ice in a rocks glass.

The Godfather cocktail

The Godfather 

 25 ml J&B Rare, 25 ml Amaretto liqueur 

Serve with ice in a rocks glass and garnish with a cherry.

Best-known for his novella ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, Truman Capote was flamboyant, unpredictable and a huge fan of J&B Rare. However, with his theatrically camp manner, he would never ask a bar tender for a ‘J&B’, but instead preferred the formal, full name of the distiller, to request a ‘Justerini and Brooks’.

While his fave tipple may not have been sipped by Audrey Hepburn at Tiffany’s in the movie, it has a starring role in the 1982 classic The Thing, which features regular ‘shots’ of J&B Rare at the Research station.

J&B, product placement in ‘The Thing’

In a memorable scene in Scarface, Tony Montana (Pacino) approaches Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), with the chat up line, “Why don’t we have a couple of drinks and just take it easy. I like Scotch,”  Elvira pours two glasses of J&B on the rocks, with the bottle design complementing her emerald green swimsuit.

The iconic J&B whisky drinking scene from ‘Scarface’

Spot the famous green bottle too in such iconic films as  “Shampoo,” “Moonstruck,” and “M.A.S.H.”

The colourful, cultural heritage of Justerini & Brooks from British Royalty patronage to Rat Pack and Hollywood promotion is a pioneering success story. Known today as the world’s ‘Party Whisky’, J&B Rare Blended Scotch is as cool, classic and fashionable today as it was in the swinging Sixties.

Perhaps we should follow Truman’s sassy style and ask for a Justerini & Brooks ?

Uisge Beatha!

More information:

J&B Rare Blended Scotch is widely available from Waitrose,, and Justerini & Brooks

Justerini & Brooks Ltd. Wine and Spirit Merchants

61 St James’s Street London SW1A 1LZ

14 Alva St, Edinburgh EH2 4QG

Justerini & Brooks, 61 St. James Street, London

Spring into Summer 2021: Holyrood Distillery Courtyard Bar & Bistro opening again for safe, socialising fun in the sun.

Holyrood Distillery’s Courtyard Bar, which was a fantastic success last summer, will open again on Monday 26th April on the day when Scottish hospitality can welcome thirsty and hungry folk for a welcome drink or meal out.  

Holyrood Distillery staff ready to launch the Courtyard Bar, July 2020

The image above shows the team of friendly staff getting ready to launch this innovative and very popular venue in July 2020 when bars and restaurants opened up again after the first lockdown.

Opened in 2019, Holyrood Distillery is the first single malt whisky distillery in Edinburgh for almost 100 years, after Andrew Usher’s Distillery closed in 1925.

Holyrood Distillery, Edinburgh

Located on St. Leonard’s Lane, beside the Queen’s Park in the district of Newington, the patio area outside the distillery will be transformed into a spacious, safe outdoor bar and bistro.   

This year, the improved and well-designed Courtyard will be the place to be and be seen, whether rain or shine, due to the creation of sheltered seating with heaters.

Service will initially be table-service only, with contactless orders via an online app. Tables will seat a maximum of six people, with an overall capacity of up to 120.

Refreshing, thirst-quenching beers, cider, wines, G&T and cocktails et al

The opening of the Courtyard Bar also gives the timely opportunity to launch the Holyrood Distillery’s new HolyXXXX Gin, crafted with just one botanical and two other unusual ingredients for a very distinctive flavour. The Gin Craze has no sign of disappearing any time soon – more than 80% of gin consumed in the UK is made across Scotland from Ayrshire to Shetland.

In order to support local independent breweries, the Bar will serve Draught pints such as Pilot Leith Lager, Barneys Sherbet Sour Ale and Braw Tropical from Cross Borders.  Beers in a can include Stewarts’ Session IPA, Hoppy Botanist from Campervan and Citra Pale Ale by Newbarns. 

Perfect summer time tipples for all tastes – Prosecco, White and Red wines, Thistly Cross Ciders and Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer (for grown ups only). All favourite Soft drinks too: Pellegrino lemonade, Mineral Water, Irn-Bru, Coca Cola.

As well as tasting and testing the new HolyXXXX Gin, you can buy a bottle to take home from the Distillery shop, as well as other Holyrood Distillery spirits.

There’s a selection of other exciting Scottish gins too at the Bar from local distilleries, Electric Spirit and Port of Leith.  

Whisky lovers can sample Sanaig from Kilchoman, Nc’Nean’s Organic Single Malt and Dream to Dram, from Kingsbarn 

Plus a range of daily Gin and Whisky-based cocktails to jazz up your boozy Picnic in the Courtyard. 

Holyrood Distillery has partnered with Hickory, the award-winning Edinburgh Catering and Event management company, which is renowned for a cooking up posh nosh for private parties, Festivals, buffets and banquets, corporate dinners and glamorous Weddings. Catering for any style or size of event, their logo says it all, “We’re Good to Go.”

In smart casual fashion, the tasty, tempting menu at the Courtyard Bar is all about alfresco gastro pub-grub: gourmet sandwiches such as Nacho Libre (Beef patty, guac, salsa, nachos, cheddar, jalapenos), and the Epic Veg (Herb & spinach falafel, cashew feta, hummus, garlic ‘mayo’, Hickory kraut, on a khobez wrap); Snacks, Salads and loads of Fries.  

An ice-cream tricycle will supply summertime treats for the perfect dessert. 

The Hickory Food menu and Bar Drinks list can be viewed and ordered online and by the ‘at-table’ App (see link below)

HIckory – quality, fresh, good food from garden picnics to grand banquets

The Holyrood Distillery Courtyard Bar will be a safe and spacious outdoor venue for families and friends to socialise – children will be welcome until 7pm.  The Bar opens daily from 1pm to 8pm in the first week, and then from Thursdays to Saturdays, 1pm to 9pm; Sundays 12pm-6pm.

 “We are absolutely delighted to be able to reopen our Courtyard as a sunny, safe and social space.  After a massively challenging year for everyone, and a particularly tough time for the hospitality industry, the distillery team will be very emotional to see people back here again, enjoying the space, sipping our new gin, and supporting the other small distillers and brewers we are showcasing”.   Debs Newman, Holyrood Distillery’s Brand Home Manager.

Time to celebrate the escape from lockdown and where better to go than the Holyrood Distillery Courtyard Bar as we spring into Summer.

Book your bench soon at the Holyrood Distillery Courtyard Bar

Table Reservations are recommended:

Place your order from the Hickory food menu and Bar Drinks on line as well as with an ‘at table’ App.

Location:  Holyrood Distillery, 19 St Leonard’s Lane, Edinburgh EH8 9SH.

Telephone 0131 285 8977

N.B. Holyrood Distillery asks all visitors to adhere to government guidance and onsite direction.

A wide choice of Scottish gins and whiskies at the Courtyard Bar

‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett: an ingeniously plotted, finely crafted, murder mystery with masterly Miller-esque dramatic style.

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.   Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of ‘All My Sons’ and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

The Appeal’ is the widely critically acclaimed, debut novel by Janice Hallett, a former magazine editor, journalist and political speechwriter. She co-wrote the psychological thriller feature film The Retreat and has had several plays produced with further scripts in development.

The cover image illustrates the Defence Barrister’s Brief neatly tied up in pink ribbon.  Roderick Tanner, QC is representing a client who is appealing against their sentence and sets his trainees, Femi and Charlotte, the task of studying the papers to see if they agree with his conclusions.  

Open the book to find this collection of emails, texts, WhatsApp messages, police interviews and QC’s notes which will guide the reader too through all the legal evidence to unravel the truth behind the murder and if there has been a miscarriage of justice.

We are introduced to the large and colourful cast list of characters through their testimony in this flurry of correspondence – personal observations, anecdotes, chit chat, gossip, facts, and, no doubt, many secrets and lies.

Many of these are members of the Fairway Players, getting ready for the casting and rehearsals for a production of Arthur Miller’s, All My Sons (1947).

The award winning play is based on a true wartime story about a corrupt businessman, Joe Keller, who sold defective airplane parts, driven by a thirst for money and success even if it comes at the cost of family relationships and tragic consequences.

The film version of All My Sons, by Arthur Miller (1948)

A play within a play is a clever device.  Michael Frayn’s Noises Off is a farce set behind the scenes of a theatre production where mounting egos, memory loss and secret affairs turn every performance of Nothing On into real drama from dress rehearsal, the opening night and a performance towards the end of the run.

Alan Ayckbourn also used the scenario in ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’: A widower attempts to escape loneliness by joining the local amateur light operatic company for a performance of The Beggar’s Opera with all the day to day, often immoral, activities of the actors off stage. 

So here we have a modern murder mystery set around a classic play.  Very much in charge of proceedings is Martin Hayward, the director, a respected local businessman who owns The Grange Golf and Country Club.  In the cast of All My Sons are his wife Helen as Kate Keller, their daughter Paige is Lydia, three members of the McDonald family; Sam and Kel Greenwood, are new members having recently been voluntary aid workers in Africa. Isabel is a bit of a loner, neurotic and obsessive, desperately keen to make friends and have a starring role with the Fairway Players.

Drama off stage too when Martin and Helen’s grand-daughter Poppy is diagnosed with a brain tumour, and a Crowdfunding campaign is launched to raise £250,000 for experimental drug treatment in the USA.  Medical evidence on Poppy’s condition is supplied mainly by Dr Tish Bhatoa, an Oncology Consultant.

Of course, we are well aware that these amateur actors are playing a role on stage, who may well have a talent to deceive friends, family and the police in real life too.  

This is a complex maze of intertwined events: behind the scenes of the theatre production, Poppy’s terminal illness, the fundraising appeal – all leading up to the night of the murder. The correspondence between the characters together with police reports, offer a conflicting summary of everyone’s involvement, grudges, suspicions, arguments and strained friendships, as we try to work out the timeline of action.  But whom can we trust.?

Rather curiously as the Fairway Players are the prime suspects, the characters and motives in All My Sons, dealing with a fraudulent business scam and family deceit, are never explored by Martin and his cast, despite the close thematic links to the central plotline of The Appeal. 

On Page 296 there is an essential List of Individuals totalling 81 characters. This would be far better published as a pull- out Theatre programme, as you have to keep referring to it as a reminder of who everyone is – the key players, family relationships and the small but important cameo roles.

Another point to make is that Femi and Charlotte communicate by WhatsApp, with some messages printed in dark grey and difficult to read clearly (as illustrated above).

Sunday Times Crime Novel of the Month, January 2021

However, what does work so brilliantly is that through the dialogue of emails and texts, we can virtually ‘hear’ each character’s voice, giving a first-person narrative with sharp, psychological insight.  The antitheses of a fast paced, action thriller, the focus in The Appeal is on detailed discussion and debate with a slow methodical pace, ingeniously plotted and finely crafted with masterly Miller-esque dramatic style.

From a Review of the premiere of ‘All My Sons’, 30th January, 1947:

Mr. Miller has written an honest, forceful drama about a group of people caught up in a monstrous swindle.   Writing pithy yet unselfconscious dialogue, he has created his characters vividly with hearts and minds of their own. His drama is a piece of expert construction ..  an original play of superior quality by a playwright who knows his craft and has unusual understanding of the tangled loyalties of human beings.’ Brooks Atkinson, New York Times.

THE APPEAL by Janice Hallett is published by Viper @ Serpent’s Tail. 

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

ISBN: 978-1788165280 –  Hardback.

ISBN: 978-1788165303 – Paperback to be published on 1st July, 2021.

Janice Hallett: the multi-talented journalist, film script writer, playwright and novelist

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


  • 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.


  • 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:

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


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:

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

Browse the E-catalogue: