The Lakes Distillery | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Lakes Distillery

Set in a beautiful old barn that was once home to a Victorian model farm, a stones' throw from the River Derwent, at the northernmost tip of Lake Bassenthwaite lies the soon-to-be fully operational Lakes Distillery.

We were thrilled to be invited along to visit the distillery before the Grand Opening (pop 15th December in your diaries!) and even more delighted when we were greeted by "Is it too early for a whisky?" at 13.07 (you probably won't be surprised to read that a resounding "no" filled the room at this stage). The whisky in question, ahead of their own production, is the Lakes Distillery's blend, The One: a tasty, versatile, easy-drinking dram which worked just as well in the early afternoon as the evening (you can read our full review here). Whilst we sipped on our first taster, we got chatting to Katie Read - business development manager of the Lakes Distillery and the very epitome of a woman who loves her job, combining her passion for malt whisky with a drive to promote Cumbria in the very best way.


The building itself took Paul Currie, Founder and Managing Director, 9 months to find, due to the extremely strict regulations regarding new buildings in the Lake District. How
ever, this "impossible dream" has been achieved in spades - the distillery itself is stunning, and the use of original buildings gives it a feeling that it always been there, a natural fit to the surroundings. The abundant natural resources and the quality of the water source also ensure that the distillery remains at one with its environment.

Beautiful scenery surrounding the distillery
Whilst we listened to Paul share his insights about the distillery, we had an absolute feast of a buffet created by Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne, who will hold responsibility for the bistro once the distillery opens next month. Our lunch had the theme of a top-class autumnal English picnic - beef and horseradish sandwiches, and homemade pork pies, Scotch eggs and sausage rolls. The miniature puddings were beyond delicious - pistachio and raspberry macaroons which just melted in the mouth and were the perfect pairing for The Lakes Gin (review of this to follow), and a sumptuous chocolate caramel tart (which Laura ended up absolutely covered in - can't take her anywhere). We'll definitely be back in the future to sample the full menu, and this enterprise helps to ensure that the distillery's appeal will reach out beyond the spirit it produces.
Plans!
Once replete, we headed on over to the distillery building itself to take a look at where the magic will happen. Our tour was conducted by Master Distiller Chris Anderson - an Ileach! After a career spanning distilleries including Caol Ila and Aberfeldy, Chris has now come to take the helm at the Lakes Distillery. Chris is partnered by John Drake, distillery manager, who is passionate, super knowledgeable despite being relatively new to the whisky scene, and just generally an all-round top bloke. The whole whisky-making process takes part under the one roof, with the stainless steel mashtun and washbacks on one side, and the beautiful stills on the other. Traditional at heart, unusual touches adorn the workings of the distillery - our favourite was a little window on the stills, rather than the traditional copper door, meaning you'll be able to peek inside to have a look at just what exactly goes on in there!


As well as their gin, The Lakes Vodka production is due to begin in early December. Both these spirits will be produced in "Chemmy" - a rather cute still named after distillery ambassador and champion skier Chemmy Alcott.

Being situated outside of Scotland (although this will be the closest English distillery to the border), the Lakes Distillery won't be bound to the laws of "Scotch", and it seems they are going to use this very much to their advantage. One idea which really made us prick up our ears is the prospective concept of "Mad March", where each year this month will be spent doing something a little bit different - for example, as the distillery won't necessarily need to use oak casks, they are thinking about exciting possibilities including chestnut, birch and maple. In a world first, there's also the option to use a condenser made from copper and stainless steel, which is hoped will add more character to the final spirit. 

The Lakes Distillery is the perfect mix of old and new - it already feels full of tradition and heritage, yet with an industrial edge. This is mirrored by the whole ethos which we got from our trip: traditional ideas and knowledge make up the core values of the distillery, blended with experimental flair and innovation.

Watch this space!

Cheers,

J&L