Q&A with Cotswolds Distillery Founder, Dan: Highgrove Coronation Whisky
Where was the Highgrove Coronation Whisky distilled, matured, and bottled?
"Right here at our distillery in the beautiful North Cotswolds, using Cotswolds-grown barley, we truly are Cotswolds grain to glass."
How many bottles of the special release whisky are being produced?
"This is a single cask release of just 340 bottles."
What type of cask was used to mature the whisky?
"This release was matured in our favourite ex-red wine STR shaved, toasted, and re-charred barriques. These highly active casks were created by our mentor and renowned whisky consultant, the late Dr.Jim Swan, and give a rich and intense maturation to our fruity new-make spirit, offering strong notes of toffee, chocolate, and red fruits as well as a beautiful, deep colour."
What was the reasoning behind using Plumage Archer barley from Highgrove?
"I first heard about Plumage Archer from our maltsters at Warminster Maltings. Not only are they the oldest working maltings in the UK, but they are also the ones who first developed Plumage Archer, the first-ever variety of malting barley specifically optimised for brewing and distilling, back in 1906. I mentioned my interest in heritage grains and what a pity it was that Plumage Archer malt was no longer available, at which point they told me that the breed was indeed alive and well and living in Highgrove! This led me to contact David Wilson, Highgrove’s Farm Manager, in the spring of 2017. David confirmed he had a significant tonnage from the 2016 harvest available, which could be malted for us at Warminster. The price was quite high, and the alcohol yield was rather low compared with more modern varieties of malting barley, but it had a distinct and wonderful aroma when it was mashed (milled into grist and mixed with hot water). Our distillers referred to the aroma as reminding them of hot popcorn—certainly a lovely image and very supportive of our decision to try this heritage grain."
What makes heritage grains so unique?
"Heritage grains are like a time capsule, offering us a glimpse back to a period when agriculture was not as intensive as it is today. While Plumage Archer’s development certainly marked a milestone in the road to better yields and more disease and pest-resistant barley, this quest was still in its early years and not as developed as it is today, to a point where the importance of flavour seems almost an afterthought. We hope to continue exploring different varieties of grain as part of a search for better flavour, even if it means lower yields, and we’re very excited with this first-ever release from our Plumage Archer stocks."
How will you be enjoying this release to mark the Coronation?
"I plan to celebrate with a small group of friends with whom I look forward to sharing this very special whisky, sipped neat in a long-stemmed Copita glass, which allows one to maximise all of the wonderful aromas."