The multi award-winning Lakes Distillery hosted its inaugural Founders’ Day where more than 300 people who’ve invested in the first casks of whisky enjoyed a dram or two. So did Savour editor Georga Spottiwood, who finds out more about this exciting adventure
December 17th 2017: Judgement Day. For that day will mark three years since the first cask at The Lakes Distillery, in Cumbria, was filled – and a day when the spirit can officially be named a single malt whisky.
In one sense, it will be the end of an amazing three-year journey and in the other, it’s just the start of an epic adventure for this year-old distillery.
But let’s take you back to the start of that journey so far …
“It was a eureka moment,” says The Lakes Distillery founder Paul Currie.
While on a family holiday in the Lakes he discovered his treasure: a cluster of old farm buildings just 150 metres from the River Derwent.
It was what he had been looking for, a vision he and his father, Howard, had in their heads for years.
Howard and Paul set up a distillery on the Isle of Aaron in 1995, but both men had always had a dream: a distillery in the majestical lands of the Lakes.
“As soon as I saw the site, I knew this was the perfect setting for my dream,” said Paul.
But the buildings, which were once a Victorian model farm dating back to 1850 had stood derelict for 20 years. They were damp, dirty and falling to pieces.
In desperate need of some TLC, Paul and a team of architects got to work. During a painstaking process, every piece of stonework on the facade was taken down, numbered and put back in place once the interior was finished.
Today, the imposing buildings are home to an impressive whisky distilling operation, and although this business is in its infancy, it’s been backed so far by 1,800 members who’ve already casked their spirits, patiently waiting the three years it takes to be named whisky.
Paul said: “It’s great to bring our founders together and celebrate. They are the ones who support our first production. Now the whisky is 14-15 months old and I’m delighted how it’s coming out. We’ve had a brilliant start and Time Out New York named us as one of the best new distillery’s to visit in the world.”
The beauty of this site is not only in the buildings Paul has restored, it’s also in its surroundings. Nestled in the Lake District National Park – an area of outstanding beauty – the vast mountainous landscape has a plentiful supply of pure water – which is one of the key ingredients of whisky.
While those who have holidayed in the area may have cursed it for its heavy rainfall, it’s this rain that feeds The River Derwent – one of the fastest flowing rivers in Europe – which speeds its way to the sea, 25 miles away. Before doing so, it passes just 150 metres away from the distillery where it is collected for the spirits.
Susan, Rachel, (both whisky sills) and Chemmy, a vodka and gin sill, dominate the production room – which is a little like an adult version of Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory, only with alcohol instead of the sweet stuff!
While Rachel is named after Paul’s wife, and Susan is the chairman’s wife, Chemmy is named after Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott, who’s an ambassador for the gin that The Lakes Distillery also produce.
As well as whisky, the company has The Lakes Vodka, The Lakes Gin, and The ONE – a unique blend of exceptional whiskies from the British Isles. When it comes to producing the single malt whisky, the spirit is casked; for it is, after all, the wood that makes the whisky.
“We’ve got casks from Kentucky and Missouri that have had bourbon in. Sherry casks from California that have formerly stocked Cabernet Sauvignons, it all adds depth to the flavour, says tour guide Mike Palmer.
While the bourbon casks produce flavours such as vanilla, honey, coconut, almonds, fudge and ginger, the sherry casks impart flavours such as sultanas, raisins, candied peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and caramel.
The secret ingredient? “Patience,” said Mike. “It’s only after three years that we are permitted to call the spirit whisky.”
The longer it’s left, the more characteristics it will have and while it goes in a clear liquid, what comes out whisky that’s a golden hue. Here’s to wishing our lives away, well until December 2017.
Paul said: “We are 18 months into our Lakes Distillery journey so far and are excited for what the future holds. The team are immensely proud of what we have achieved in a very short space of time. The ONE, our British Isles blended whisky and the The Lakes Gin can now be found in markets as far afield as Nova Scotia and Taiwan – we can safely say we have achieved world-wide exposure!
“The Lakes Distillery will also be launching a series of new in-depth tour options, including distillery masterclasses with Jonathan Edwards, whisky ambassador, and Chemmy Allcot, ambassador for the gin.
“The Lakes Distillery is also delighted to announce two new expressions of The Lakes Gin: Sloe Gin and Damson Gin in September, and the highly anticipated Explorer Edition in June. An oloroso cherry cask version of The ONE and two further expressions are to be announced in September. There is plenty to keep us busy while our malt is sleeping ready for release in June,” said Paul.
BECOME A FOUNDER
The Lakes Distillery is delighted to announce the release of the first spirit produced by the Distillery.
This limited bottle is exclusively available to Founders’ Club members who will receive their first 70cl bottle of the Lakes Spirit this June.
Founders Club members can invest in whisky now to build a 10-year collection that is exceptionally rare and exclusively unique to a limited number of Founders.
Outside of the Founders’ Club, The Lakes Malt won’t be available to the general public until 2018.
By joining the Founders’ Club, members will receive one 70cl bottle of The Lakes Spirit every year for the next 10 years – exclusively drawn from the first 100 casks of whisky produced at The Lakes Distillery.
In addition, members have the unique opportunity to taste the whisky developing during that time with matching miniatures, allowing full appreciation of the progression of the maturing spirit. This is available to 2975 members worldwide, making this a rare and wonderful experience for a discerning collector or whisky connoisseur.
After 10 years, members will have received their 10-part collection of Limited Edition Lakes Whisky. Throughout, members will have the opportunity to be involved with the annual Founders’ Day and exclusive events throughout the year.
To become a founder – and parts of whisky history – it’s £19.95 a month. Limited memberships remain. Visit www.lakesdistillery.com for more information.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Set in a former Victorian cattle parlour is the Bistro at the Distillery. Instrumental in its food operation is Terry Laybourne.
Terry, owner of Newcastle-based 21 Hospitality Group, was the first chef to bring a Michelin star to North East in 1992.
Although Terry’s a food consultant for the Bistro, it’s head chef Andrew Beaton that holds the reins in the kitchen. He’s spent time at Raymond Blanc’s Petit Blanc as well as cooked for Her Majesty the Queen herself. You can expect the royal treatment with exceptional, honest food.
With an al fresco dining area, you can soak up the atmosphere while enjoying top-notch food.Opt for the Distiller’s Lunch featuring pork pie, country ham, Crofton cheese, Cox’s orange pippin, piccalilli and country bread and farmhouse butter, £8.60pp. Or, let the fishcakes with buttered spinach, parsley cream and chips tempt you, £11.50.