Reviews of interesting whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions
The Whiskymaker’s Editions is a series of single malt whiskies from The Lakes Distillery in England. Thus far, each bottling has showcased the creativity of Lakes Whiskymaker, Dhavall Gandhi.
Gandhi joined the distillery in 2016 after a stint as a blender at The Macallan. At the Lakes, he took on the task of guiding the creation of the distillery’s single malt. He overhauled the production process and altered the maturation regime to better shape the development of the ageing spirit. Gandhi’s work came to fruition with the release of the Whiskymaker’s Reserve No 1 in 2019.
In 2022, Gandhi departed The Lakes to establish his own creative studio. As his replacement, the Lakes once again looked to The Macallan for inspiration, this time persuading Sarah Burgess to move to the Lake District. Sarah has worked with Edrington, Diageo and latterly, on the creation of The Craigellachie Collection.
From the Press Release: “Former Lead Whiskymaker at The Macallan, Sarah’s time at Edrington focused on whisky range creation, innovation, and quality control…” “On leaving her role as creative director at The Craigellachie, where Sarah has been crafting a luxury lifestyle collection of drinks telling the story of Speyside at one of the world’s oldest whisky hotels, Sarah brings more than 25 years of whisky-making passion and knowledge to The Lakes Distillery at a time when they are accelerating production and planning for rapid international growth.”
Sarah says: “I was intrigued by The Lakes as a new distillery but one creating such high-quality whisky. I am excited to be part of a new and innovative operation and I am sure between my creativity and the quality casks we have in maturation that many great whiskies will follow.”
Nigel Mills, a co-founder of The Lakes Distillery, said: “We are delighted to welcome Sarah to our team. Not only does she bring a wealth of experience and creativity, but Sarah’s inclusive desire to guide, support and develop our existing whisky-making team is something we are very excited about.
With an acute understanding of the complete whisky-making process, Sarah’s hands-on approach to taking concepts from inception through to creation aligns flawlessly with our whisky-making philosophy. It is a very exciting time for us all.”
The change certainly raises some interesting questions. The whisky made by Gandhi was of excellent quality but will Sarah take things in a different direction? The distillery held an invitational open day for bloggers back in 2018 during which they spoke a lot about capturing a sense of place. That pursuit seemed to be shelved in favour of celebrating the creativity of their
blender, sorry, whiskymaker. Will we now see a new direction for the distillery’s malt, perhaps one that focuses on its own unique location? Will titles like Whiskymaker’s Reserve continue or be replaced by something else? I’ll be following the developments with curiosity in the months ahead but for now, let’s get to talking about the drams.
*Full disclosure: the samples featured in this article were sent to me free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions: Infinity
*It’s worth highlighting that both whiskies reviewed here, were created during Dhavall Gandhi’s time at The Lakes.
Infinity is an English single malt matured in a combination of Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Fino and Manzanilla sherry casks. It’s bottled at 52.7% and retails at £95.
Smell: Lots of dried fruits and nuts. Raisins. Walnuts. Dark chocolate. Orange liqueur. Some cherry. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Toasted oak. Caramel and honey.
Taste: Toffee and chocolate. Chomp bars! Caramel. Raisins. Treacle. Syrup. Plum. Nice oaky spice dancing around the tongue. A wee bit of dryness on the palate, but not too much.
Thoughts: It’s a typically pleasant dram from the Lakes, although perhaps not as distinct from the standard releases as other Editions bottlings. It still feels very much sherry-led although the different varieties of sherry cask add some complexity to the profile – it’s a little nuttier and drier than recent Whiskymaker’s Reserve expressions. As ever the non-chill-filtered presentation gives a nice oily texture on the palate and the higher strength delivers an intensity of flavour that you just don’t get from overly diluted whiskies. It’s a good example of the quality that’s regularly being produced by the Lakes.
Price: During the open day I mentioned above, The Lakes team used the word “premium” on several occasions. That was something of a tip-off, in terms of how they saw their product, even before it had matured. Early releases of their single malt were steeply priced at around £60 but the high quality and cask strength bottling bought them some leeway from this reviewer. I think it’s safe to say things have accelerated since then. £95 is, quite frankly, a bit silly for a whisky that is, presumably, around 5 years old. Nice dram though it is, I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for it.
It’s no surprise The Lakes continues to seek out former Macallan employees. The Speyside giant long ago mastered the art of charging an absolute fortune for no-age-statement whisky. It seems The Lakes is determined to tread the same path, only without the long history that earned Macallan its reputation in the first place. It’s up to you as a consumer to decide whether you want to get on board with that or not. I certainly won’t be.
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions: Reflections
Reflections is a single malt created in partnership with head chef Simon Rogan of the 3-Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume. It is available exclusively online from House of Malt. It’s bottled at 54.2% and retails at £80.
The marketing blurb says “Respectful of Simon’s ethos, Reflections is guided by earthly connections, grounded by a sense of place and stimulative of deep contemplation at meaningful moments in time.”
I don’t know what that means, so let’s just get on with tasting it.
Smell: Honey. Vanilla. Malt. Creme brulee. Cashew nuts. Toffee apples. Baking spices. Some new oak spice. Now some tropical fruit notes coming through with buttered rum.
Taste: Vanilla buttercream. Honey. Custard. Also some dried fruits and walnut. Dark chocolate in the background. Touch of oak on the finish with some dry spice.
Thoughts: This feels different. It’s possibly the first time I’ve found a little maltiness coming through in a Lakes dram. It seems a little more balanced than other releases. Perhaps we’re actually getting to see some of the distillery’s character coming through, rather than being led in a particular direction by the casks. That’s not to say oak doesn’t play a role, it certainly does, although I’m not sure what casks have been used here. The overall effect is one of balance between different elements. Rather than an abundance of sherry. Ironically, it actually feels like something of a new direction for The Lakes. I wonder if we’ll see more of this kind of thing under the new creative team?
Price: £80. Once again, I find the pricing problematic. This sort of thing almost strikes me as a sort of arrogance. Like a snobby belief that The Lakes whisky is so exceptional it deserves to charge more. I find that sort of thing incredibly off-putting, which is a shame, because it is once again, a good dram. I just can’t really recommend it as a purchase at that price.
For more on the Lakes Distillery visit: https://www.lakesdistillery.com/