Paul Currie worked with his Father Harold on the creation of Arran distillery. During his time in Scotland however, he regularly holidayed in the Lake District and when his spell in the scotch industry came to an end, those vacations in Cumbria proved the inspiration behind his next project, The Lakes Distillery.
Founded in 2011, the Lakes Distillery was established within a complex of derelict Victorian farm buildings. Once up and running the site began producing everything from gin to vodka and crucially, whisky. Their first release was The One, a blend of whiskies sourced from across the British Isles but by 2019 they were finally ready to unveil their first standard single malt release. The whisky was created by Dhavall Gandhi, who joined the company from The Macallan distillery to oversee the entirety of the creative process. Under his guidance, the Lakes veered towards a sherry-led style, introduced for the first time in their Whiskymaker’s Reserve (you can read my review of the original here).
Following the launch of their single malt the Lakes cast their eye toward expansion, securing £4.25m in investment earlier this year to help with the installation of eight new washbacks, allowing for 24-hour distillation and the swelling of whisky stocks that such an increase in production would bring. The move should see the Lakes reaching new markets in a way they have thus far been unable to do.
Like so many distilleries, the Lakes was forced to close to the public in the face of the coronavirus pandemic but the 10th of July will see the shop reopen, albeit with protective measures in place, including limited numbers, a one-way system and hand sanitiser stations. All going well the distillery proper and its renowned bistro should be able to follow at the end of the month, with plans to resume limited tours from the 31st of July.
2020 has also seen the release of the latest edition of their Whiskymaker’s Reserve. Now in its third incarnation, this single malt was matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez, Oloroso and Cream sherry casks, with a small amount of Red Wine casks added for good measure. Bottled at a cask strength of 54%, it retails for £65.
*Full disclosure: I was sent a sample of the Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 3 so that I might share my thoughts. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Smell: A little closed at first and took a little time in the glass to open up. Then some strawberry and raspberry notes came through, followed by sticky sherry – treacle, maple syrup, prune juice. Salted caramel. Brown sugar and a light dusting of cinnamon.
Taste: Rich, spicy arrival. Burnt caramel and dark chocolate. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Raspberry and blackcurrant. Prunes. Figs. Maple syrup. Dry wood spice on the finish.
Value for Money: When assessing how well a whisky fares in the value for money stakes there’s a series of questions I ask. Or to put it more simply, there’s certain things that I think can justify a higher price. Being cask strength is one of those things. Using a high proportion of expensive sherry casks is another. Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 3 checks both of those boxes so whilst I still feel it’s a little overpriced, it perhaps isn’t as bad as it first appears.
This is a very blended dram, for want of a better expression. Some whiskies shift and evolve constantly, more akin to happy accidents of nature than creations of human skill and endeavour but this Lakes expression is the opposite. Each element has a specific role to play and shows up on schedule to deliver exactly as it was intended to do, sip after sip. If whisky making is an art form, this is Precisionism. It’s almost too regimented, too consistent. With such dramatic cask dominance it’s also difficult to see what the Lakes spirit itself is bringing to the party which is a bit of a shame because after three releases I’m still not sure I could say what defines this distillery’s unique identity, other than an abundance of fortified wine produced in Spain. Having said all that I would be utterly lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed it very much and I suspect anyone with a taste for sherry matured single malts would do likewise.
For more on the Lakes Distillery, visit here.
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