This April marks the launch of our limited edition Hearts & Crafts Pineau Des Charentes Cask Single Malt Whisky, the second whisky to be released in our yearly Hearts & Crafts collection.
Read on to find out more about our latest whisky expression in this exclusive Q&A with our founder, Daniel Szor.
Q: What's the inspiration behind the Hearts & Crafts collection?
A: This collection takes its name after the ‘heart’ cut of the spirit run during whisky production and the well-known 19th century Arts & Crafts movement which flourished in the Cotswolds and placed great emphasis on traditional craftsmanship - the same values upon which our small but perfectly formed distillery was built.
The Cotswolds had strong links to the movement and the beautiful charm of the area epitomised the rural, pre-industrial way of life which urban followers of the movement had been longing for. The revolutionary British designer and leader of the movement, William Morris, whose beautiful patterned designs we use to decorate our Hearts & Crafts tubes, would spend much of his time at his Cotswold country retreat, Kelmscott Manor, and nearby Chipping Campden even became home to the Guild and School of Handicraft, one of the most important Arts and Crafts workshops of the time.
Q: What exactly is Pineau des Charentes?
A: Pineau des Charentes is a little-known, but amazing, regional speciality of the Charentes Maritime region of France, which sits north of Bordeaux and encompasses the Cognac-producing region. It is made from fresh grape juice, which is blended with Cognac and then left to age in oak barrels for a number of years. The sweetness of the grape juice tempers the bite of the cognac, and when combined with the dry nutty notes from European oak casks it makes one of the truly great aperitifs served over ice. It comes in both red and white versions – the casks used for this whisky expression are from white Pineau.
Q: What made you choose this cask in particular for the second Hearts & Crafts expression?
A: We work with an excellent cooperage in Bordeaux who have perfected a technique of regenerating French oak ex-red wine barrels, and novel ways of seasoning them with fine wines and other spirits. We have purchased casks from them seasoned with a number of wonderful wines, including several sweet dessert wines such as the Sauternes we used in our previous Hearts & Crafts release.
When I saw Pineau des Charentes on the list of wines offered to us, I jumped at the chance! I first started drinking Pineau on a trip to the beautiful Atlantic island of Île de Ré, just off the coast of La Rochelle, in 1994, and I’ve always had a soft spot for it, hence the excitement at the idea of ageing our new make spirit in these casks.
Q: How does the Pineau des Charentes cask influence the flavour of the whisky?
A: The wood is French oak, which imparts a slightly more bitter and tannic note than the American oak used for most of the casks in which we age our whisky. The woodgrain is not as tight, allowing more tannins to come into the spirit – we find this to be a very pleasing counterpoint to the sweetness of whisky aged in casks which were seasoned with sweet dessert or aperitif wines.
Q: What should people notice when drinking this whisky?
A: This is not, in my opinion, a hugely complex or difficult whisky to get one’s head around – it is a lovely indulgence, or gourmandise as the French would say….basically a terrific treat. The whisky has been matured for its full term in these wonderful casks, and the techniques of rejuvenation and seasoning under pressure allow us to get the best out of both the wine and the wood without having to worry about off-notes from sulphur or musty casks that have remained empty for too long, as is sometimes the case with old wine casks.
Q: Are there any specific reasons for choosing the William Morris design on this new expression?
A: William Morris was a truly prolific designer and the number of beautiful patterns he created for wallpaper and other decorative uses means that we will have a great choice of backgrounds for our labels and cartons over the years to come! We feel that his designs strike the right note in that they are, like our whisky, both classic and contemporary at the same time.
The green leafiness of this year’s print is perfect for the time of year of our Hearts & Crafts launch in April when the whole area around us turns the most amazing shade of green – it’s by far my favourite time of year in the Cotswolds!
Our limited edition Cotswolds Hearts & Crafts Pineau des Charentes Cask Single Malt Whisky is now available to purchase online and in-store.