Created by founder, Paul Currie, (who co-founded the widely acclaimed, award-winning Arran distillery) Lakes Distillery is set in the heart of The Lake District. The distillery is situated in one of the UK’s most picturesque settings and housed in a renovated old Victorian Model Farm, which they have modernised while remaining true to its natural surroundings. In a story that shares a lot of parallels with Bombay Sapphire’s Laverstoke Mill conversion – a lot has been done to reduce the carbon footprint too. From returning by-products of the distillation process to local farmers for use as animal feed and for soil improvement, biomass boilers and heavy investment in recycling – the site is as green as it can be, given its scale.
With Whisky, Vodka and Gin all being produced onsite, the main barn is home to the mash house and still houses. Nearby, an old cattle shed has been converted into warehousing, with further cattle sheds transformed into a shop, a bistro and bar. If the mere mention of a bistro has you wondering if a visit is possible – yes, visitors are welcome so do go and see it for yourself! The project was three years in the making and with a sizeable multi-million pound investment secured and extensive works carried out – Lakes Distillery officially opened in late 2014.
With the hardware built to sit into the countryside that surrounds the distillery, the team also turned to the landscape to make their eponymous Gin in a way that would reflect their provenance. Developed in the space of weeks, the team picked a combination of 14 botanicals to create a subtle twist on a classic gin. Six botanicals are foraged from the Lake District region including juniper, bilberry, heather, hawthorn, mint and meadowsweet. Once combined with other classic gin botanicals (more juniper from the Balkans, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, liquorice, lemon and orange peel to name a few), The Lakes Gin started to take shape.
For you distillation geeks, the spirit is distilled in a 1,200lt copper pot still made from Scottish coppersmiths McMillan. Once distilled, The Lakes Gin is cut using water from the famous River Derwent, with its source high up in the fells, reducing the gin to 43.7% ABV. With each batch producing over 2,000 bottles, it’s not a particularly small operation in comparison to the micro-distilleries emerging across the world, but don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s any less craft focused. Details clearly matter here and the process is carefully controlled from start to finish.
To nose, there’s freshness and a good dose of lemon peel and coriander seed to compliment a fresh juniper. There’s no doubting this is traditional gin territory. When tasted neat all the classic dry flavours of juniper, angelica, liquorice and citrus are evident one from the next. The heather and leafier meadowsweet elements emerge towards the end (much more so when served in a Gin & Tonic) but overall, The Lakes Gin is fresh, juniper forward and accessible. The mouthfeel is quite viscous and it’s easy to see why they suggest serving it neat, straight from the freezer. Not convinced? Just try it.
It’s easy to see the mass appeal Lakes Gin was designed for, from flavour through to design. Its minimal look and feel is easy on the eye. So too is the gin itself, easy to sip neat and relatively straight forward. For us unfortunately, it’s also what makes it a little difficult to really engage with.
The Lakes Gin is clean, polished and in some ways doesn’t echo the majestic, dramatic landscape it’s born from. It’s a little dull. A little too manicured for our liking. Each detail has clearly been thoroughly considered and there’s nothing to dislike per se. Perhaps that’s also the issue, it’s a little forgettable at the same time. Call us complicated because while we’re saying that it’s a good gin, we’re still not loving it. It’s just not a gin that transports you when you taste it, that smacks you around the lips and has you wondering why you’ve not been drinking this as your regular and inviting everyone over to taste it. Pick your own metaphor and tweet us to let us know what you think but for us, good is just that and with great gins fighting for attention and limited shelf space, we’ve been left a little underwhelmed.
The early months saw a few mixed messages, but these are smoothing out rapidly as time goes on and the team are finding their voice. Wanting to be perceived as an artisan distillery making The Lakes Gin in a small pot still while also claiming to be the largest new distillery in England would always lead to a little confusion, but let’s face it – they are minor blemishes to an otherwise impressive start to life at the distillery. Thankfully, much like their building, things are bedding in and they have established what it right for them and how to present that to the world. In many ways, what has developed since the start of their journey is this sense of place. They are starting to harness it and bring it to life and are slowly puling together campaigns that use the natural beauty of their surroundings.
The Lakes Gin has already gained solid traction in the North of England since its launch and is picking up awards for its quality. They are looking to expand and with a team whose eyes are firmly set on global markets, expect to see a push towards both established European markets as well as the up and coming (when it comes to Gin) Asian countries. Its easy nature will appeal to many and while we may not have been bowled over, the classic profile, high quality spirit the Gin clearly has will make it an easy choice for bars looking for a solid alternative to the usual London Dry “house” offerings.
It’s clear that the future looks steady for The Lakes Distillery and their gin. The arrival of their whisky in future years will rejuvenate interest in all their products and re-affirm their position as one of the key players in the burgeoning British distilling movement. Their site is also a massive pull for their business. Tourism in the area allows for a steady stream of visitors and a strong and easily recognisable regional identity to export. If you are in that area, visit and celebrate that fact that there is a quality distillery making Gin in the Lake District.
We look forward to seeing how they grow and how the gin’s identity develops over the coming years.
For more information about The Lakes Gin, visit their website: www.lakesdistillery.com
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