Meet the award-winning whisky maker who became a distiller by chance

William Sitwell
·2-min read
 Daniel Szor
Daniel Szor
Biting Talk: Daniel Szor
Biting Talk: Daniel Szor

He has won countless awards, has a vast range of spirits, sells through Waitrose and Sainsbury’s and is part of a growing band of whisky makers in England – but New Yorker Daniel Szor never actually intended to enter the drinks industry.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Biting Talk podcast, the founder of Cotswolds Distillery explains that their converted barn in Warwickshire ‘was only ever supposed to be a weekend place.’

Szor, a former banker, escaped the rat-race in 2014, ‘increasingly disenchanted with city life’. It was, he explains, ‘a Sunday afternoon in 2012; I was staring out of my bedroom window at a field of barley blowing magically in the breeze.’

The idea then struck him: ‘There’s all this barley growing in the Cotswolds. Why hasn’t anyone ever made any whisky?’ he recalled thinking, adding, ‘that’s when things got crazy.’

Today he is one of some 20 English distillers making whisky, he says, ‘the way they used to do it.’

‘I didn’t realise I was going into the drinks business,’ he says. ‘I just loved whisky and wanted to make it. I had a curious mix of curious confidence and huge ignorance.’ But while he has found success and today makes a large range of whiskies, gins, liqueurs, sherry and vermouth, it was, he says, ‘really hard in the first few years. Financially I wouldn’t wish what we went through on my worst enemy.’

You can hear the full interview with Daniel Szor​ on Biting Talk, which this week also features Peter Greig, director and co-founder of Devon’s visionary meat box firm Pipers Farm, food historian Mark Riddaway reflecting on the history of ingredients on sale at Borough Market, and Biting Talk’s resident mixologist Farhad Heydari. Click on the audio player above to listen.