The north west’s highest pub has been brought back to life as a whiskey distillery. The owners say the Cat Fiddle’s unique position at 1,685ft above sea level gives their English single malt whiskey a unique flavour.
The landmark 200-year-old pub, on the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton, dates back to 1813, and was for many years a popular stop off for people making the journey over the hills, Cheshire Live reports. But for five years, between 2015 and 2020, the landmark building cut a forlorn figure as it was closed down and stood empty.
Now thanks to an award-winning Cheshire distiller, the tipple known as the water of life has indeed breathed new life into the Cat and Fiddle. The building is now re-opened and refurbished and the first single malt whiskey will be poured from the barrels and 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 a 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 that’s won two separate double gold medals at the San Francisco Spirit Awards, which is the equivalent of The Oscars, but for booze.
When they decided that they needed bigger premises in order to branch out into whiskey distilling, the derelict Cat and Fiddle looked like a perfect choice and it was the high altitude that excited the couple about what they could produce at the pub site. Tom Ottley from Forest Distillery explained: “The Japanese are famed for distilling whiskey at altitude.
“They’re all up in the mountains but unfortunately, we don’t have mountains to play with. We’ve got this beautiful countryside and the Peak District. So we’re currently distilling at 1,685ft above sea level. When you distil at altitude, alcohol will boil at different temperatures so it means that you can extract more alcohol from it and make more flavour, which is key.”
Tom also explained that it is the unique Cheshire ingredients that will make a great whiskey. He told CheshireLive: “Our main purpose for us is to make English single malt whiskey, the finest spirit we can possibly craft using Cheshire malts produced over in Knutsford. Then we are introducing the water from 90m beneath our feet from us, from the natural well below the Cat and Fiddle, combining those all together using natural yeasts and distillers yeast to help ferment this beautiful spirit and age it in English oak barrels.”
When Karl and Lindsey went to look around in 2019, the building was falling apart. So they crowd-funded to raise £50,000 in order to refurbish the pub and make it into something a little different.
These days there is a shop in the front of the Cat and Fiddle selling drinks and local produce. There is also a bar area as well as an events and tour space.
The distillery is around the back of the premises with barrels of whiskey aging for three years in the cellar. If you want to look around or enjoy the hospitality you may have to pre-book. At present Forest Distillery makes two gins and a blended whiskey, but the single malt which will be ready in October, will have the Cheshire flavor that will make the alcohol distilled at altitude unique.