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Paul Currie once worked with his father Harold on the creation of a new distillery on Arran but when his time there drew to an end, he set his sights on another well known holiday destination within the British Isles. Inspired by vacations to the picturesque Lake District, Currie acquired an old Victorian farm near Keswick and began to convert it into a distillery.
With blended whiskies, vodka and gin already on the market, Dhavall Gandhi was brought in from the Macallan to serve as Whiskymaker and production director and given total control over the development of the distillery’s single malt. Gandhi shifted focus to a sherry-led style of maturation and increased standard bottling strengths to a minimum of 46%.
With three versions of their flagship Whiskymaker’s Reserve now released, The Lakes have introduced a new series of bottlings known as the Whiskymaker’s Editions that aim to showcase “exceptional diversions from the sherry-led house style”. The first of this new series is the Colheita, a single malt matured in ex-Port casks: more specifically, casks which previously held Colheita, or single harvest, Port.
Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro region of Portugal. Neutral grape spirit is added to developing wine, halting the fermentation process and boosting its strength before the resultant liquid is transferred to barrels for a lengthy period of maturation. There are different categories of Port, the production of which differs in various ways but “Colheita” is a Tawny Port made from the grapes of a single year’s harvest, then matured for a minimum of 7 years and often longer. This fortified wine is said to combine the nutty finesse of an aged Tawny with their own individual character, developed through the terroir and circumstances of that particular crop.
The Lakes Distillery “Whiskymaker’s Editions – Colheita” was created by combining malt matured in casks that previously held this single harvest port with a small proportion of spirit from ex-bourbon barrels. Bottled at 52%, it retails at £65.
*Full disclosure: I was sent a sample of this whisky free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Raspberry and brambles. Currants. Raisins. Prunes and figs. Plum. Orange zest. Warm wintery spice – cinnamon and nutmeg.
Taste: Fruity and spicy. Dark, rich honey. Plums. Prunes. Raisins. Drying oak. Winter spice. Glacé cherries. Lingering juicy finish with some pleasant woody spice.
Thoughts: I presume the spirit is on the young side here but there’s no sign of harsh immaturity or any of that nonsense. Big active port casks could no doubt cover such flaws anyway but it doesn’t feel like that is happening. Instead it feels like you’re getting a classy spirit that’s been very well put together by someone who has taken great care over their stocks. Not in everyone’s budget at £65 maybe, but the quality seems to live up to the price, regardless of age.
The Lakes’ Whiskymaker’s Reserve series has been at a consistently good level throughout their first three releases but it’s nice to see a little bit of variation in the distillery’s output. I’m a fan of port matured whisky anyway but this one seemed a particularly good example. It’s full and rich with a subtle bit of warmth that makes it an ideal comfort dram as the weather turns colder. A warm comfy chair on a dark night with a glass of this in my hand and I’d be a happy man.
For more information on the Lakes Distillery, visit here.