Cumbria, home to some of the most iconic scenery and unique culture the uk has to offer. The north English county brings you striking fells such as Skiddaw, Helvellyn and Scawfell Pike. Celebrities like Stan Laurel, Helen Skelton and Scott Carson. Epicentres of culture such as Carlisle (The gateway to the Lake District and Scotland) and of course the beautiful Lake District town of Keswick. Cumbria has been on the map for generations and happens to be my home county but what Cumbria hasn't been renowned for is distillation...well not legal distillation anyway!
This is where The Lakes Distillery comes into play. Paul Currie the distillery founder and Managing Director was part of a father/son team who in 1995 established the Isle of Arran Distillery. Harold Currie a former director of Chivas along with Paul had created a distillery globally respected and has now become established as whisky royalty. Paul along with his family were holidaying in Cumbria and his heart was touched by the counties beauty and pure crystal clean waters of the river Derwent. Of course this was a perfect place to begin another distillery and the classic victorian disused farm at the head of Bassenthwaite Lake was discovered and has now been transformed into a place of sheer magnificence..
My visit on the 11th September was a distillery visit to which I can take away fond memories. Upon arrival I was greeted warmly and placed on the 2pm tour of the facility. My tour guide on the day was the very polite Simon who in the first instance guided the group to a state of the art multimedia room where a video was shown giving the background information on the foundations of the distillery and showcasing the Lake District National Park’s undisputed beauty. Now at this point a surreal moment occurred when a second video was shown of the ghost…yes thats right the ghost of Lancelot (Lanty) Slee. Lanty as he was affectionately known to the locals was a notorious smuggler who conducted illicit distillation creating a victorian moon shine whom locals loved…even the magistrates which I’m sure came in pretty handy.This illicit distillation was news to me even as a Cumbrian. As a whisky enthusiast I know all about the underhand goings on of Scotland in times gone by but never imagined this was what happened in Cumbria also.
On display in the multimedia room is also some very informative display boards which you can see in the pictures. These portray all you need to know about whisky distillation for novices and enthusiasts alike. The next part of the tour was being taken up to the heart of the distillery itself where as many other modern new distilleries the production process is quite literally a production line.
Many whisky enthusiasts fiercely dislike this modern efficient approach but for me I find it appealing. I have been on countless distillery tours and some due to the make up of distillery buildings can seem disjointed for tourists but for the lakes distillery due to the production being in the same room and in a logical order the information can be easily digested which I commend Paul and his team for creating the facility in this way.
After being explained the production processes such as the fermentation and distillation we were led down to the main bonded warehouse where Simon introduced the group to two main types of cask used by the distillery to mature their spirit. As with most uk distilleries ex bourbon casks have been sourced and for the lakes distillery these have come from the Jim Beam and the Heaven Hill Distilleries. Also used are some ex sherry casks in which impart sweeter aromas and flavours to the distillate. The group were invited to nose from these two main cask varieties which I find is helpful for the tour groups as they can use these aromas to spot in their whiskies at home when the next time they pour a dram.
Speaking of drams we then moved onto the final part of the tour which was the tasting…yep the tasting, the part where all tour members look forward to! At this point we were invited to taste the three products currently on offer from the distillery. A blended whisky (The One) assembled by the distillery, The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka which both are distilled on site. Simon our guide walked us through some nosing and tasting techniques for each liquid and invited questions at this point. I do apologise for the awkward questions Simon, Unfortunately we whisky bloggers are a bit nerdy!
The tasting room at the distillery is incorporated as part of the visitor centre shop which has been very tastefully designed and certainly somewhere I’d host a tasting event if given the chance. The shop sports a great deal of branded products and displays each spirit well which you can see in the pictures. Prices are not out of the average pockets reach and the staff are very informative and attentive. What the distillery also has on site is their bistro where I can say one of the strongest cups of coffee Ive ever drank was served. For me this was great as I love a strong cup of brown and the aromas from the fish dish they were serving that day were sublime so theres another reason to get yourselves along to this wonderful addition to the Lake District!
So to wrap this visitor experience off I can warmly recommend this new distillery to anyone visiting the area. It would make an excellent addition to your time in Cumbria. I give this visitor experience a high 8 out of 10. For me I’d have liked more in depth distillation and process information during the tour but we must remember I’m a pesky enthusiast and being that the distillery will attract mostly general tourists this tour fits the bill very nicely.
I trust you enjoyed reading this as per usual eccentric review, until next time.