The tallest pub in the northwest has been brought back to life as a whiskey distillery. The owners claim that the Cat Fiddle’s unique position at 1,685 feet above sea level gives their single malt English whiskey a unique flavor.
The iconic 200-year-old pub, on the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton, dates back to 1813 and was for many years a popular stopover for people making the trip up the hills, CheshireLive reports. But for five years, between 2015 and 2020, the historic building cut a desperate figure as it was closed and stood empty.
Today, thanks to an award-winning Cheshire distiller, the drink known as brandy has indeed breathed new life into the cat and the fiddle. The building is now reopened and refurbished and the first single malt whiskey will come out of casks and be bottled this year.
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Forest Distillery was started by husband and wife team Karl and Lindsay Bond who make their gin at premises in Macclesfield Forest, just down the hill from The Cat and Fiddle. Their business has done so well that their London Dry Gin is the only spirit in the world to win two separate double gold medals at the San Francisco Spirit Awards, which is equivalent to the Oscars, but for alcohol.
When they decided they needed bigger premises to get into whiskey distilling, the abandoned cat and fiddle seemed like the perfect fit and it was the high altitude that got the couple excited about this. that they could produce on the pub site. Tom Ottley of Forest Distillery explained: “The Japanese are famous for distilling whiskey at altitude.
“They’re all up in the mountains, but unfortunately we don’t have mountains to play with. We have this beautiful countryside and the Peak District. So we’re currently distilling at 1,685 feet above sea level. When you distill at altitude, the alcohol will boil at different temperatures, which means you can extract more alcohol from it and make more flavor out of it, which is essential.
Tom also explained that it is Cheshire’s unique ingredients that will make great whisky. He said CheshireLive “Our primary focus for us is to make English single malt whisky, the finest spirit we can make from Cheshire malts produced at Knutsford. Then we introduce the water 90m below our feet, from the natural well under the cat and the fiddle, combining them all together using natural yeasts and distillers yeast to help ferment that beautiful spirit and make it aged in English oak barrels.
When Karl and Lindsey went for a walk in 2019, the building was falling apart. So they crowdfunded to raise £50,000 to renovate the pub and make it something a little different.
These days there is a shop outside the Cat and Fiddle selling local produce and drinks. There is also a bar as well as space for events and tours.
The distillery is at the back of the premises with barrels of whiskey aging three years in the cellar. If you want to look around or enjoy hospitality, you may need to book in advance. Currently Forest Distillery produces two gins and a blended whiskey, but the single malt which will be ready in October will have the flavor of Cheshire which will make the alcohol distilled at altitude unique.