A Distillery Visit
|Photo courtesy of The Lakes Distillery
One of the first things we learned was that the Lakes Distillery sees itself first and foremost as a whisky distillery. The biggest problem with starting out in whisky-making, though, is that the law does not allow a spirit to be sold as whisky until it's been aged in wooden casks for at least three years. That's three years of expensive production and maturing before you can recoup a single penny. The reality is that most whiskies are aged at least eight years, and some as much as twice that. Almost all whiskies are blended: single malts are blended from a variety of aged spirits from a single distillery, so a good single malt whisky depends on many years of production to establish a consistent taste. Are you getting the picture? You won't make a lot of money out of whisky while your business is young.
|Still room. Photo: The Lakes Distillery
First, they make gin and vodka. When you go inside the still room at the Lakes Distillery, the first things you see are the two whisky stills, but behind them, in a corner is a smaller, slimmer still for making vodka and gin. (Gin being a juniper-flavoured vodka.) These are spirits that can be sold as soon as they come off the still, thus providing an income for the distillery while its whisky is young. That's not to say these spirits are treated as unimportant. Both are delicious, showing as much care in the production as any whisky I've tasted. The still used at the Lakes has an additional collar at the top of the column, so that more spirit drops back into the still during the distillation process, giving an exceptionally pure and smooth experience for the drinker. It's no wonder the vodka was named this year as the world's best (World Vodka Awards, February 2019).
Last year, the first home-produced whisky was bottled at the Lakes. Obviously, given all I've said about blending whisky from different years, much of the three year old spirit has been held back. Thus, a bottle of "Genesis" Lakes Distillery whisky is still very rare and sells for well over £800.
The One whisky is not a heavy one, with only a subtle hint of peat smoke. More noticeable are the elements of spice and hazelnut and a touch of caramel on the palate. While it's not entirely to my taste (I like the big flavours of an Islay whisky), it suited the Beloved perfectly, and would be an ideal whisky to have in, to suite a wide range of tastes. The makers recommend drinking it neat, but it would be lovely mixed with a little ginger ale, too.
I could carry on writing about the visit forever! I haven't even mentioned the beauty of the surroundings, the lovely food in the bistro, the low-waste policies or the alpacas yet. To sum up in three words: visit for yourself. You'll be glad you did.
|Yes, I did say alpacas
For those who might like to try it, here's the cocktail I created for Zoe Williams:
A Mermaid's Kiss
Moisten half the rim of two coupe glasses with Italicus 'Rosolio di Bergamotto' liqueur, shake off the excess, then dip into a mixture of sugar and sea salt.
In a mixing glass of ice, stir
25ml of The Lakes Distillery vodka
50ml of Italicus liqueur
a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.
Strain into the prepared glasses, so that each is half full, and add a splash of Prosecco.
|A Mermaid's Kiss
Next time: the final part in my summer series about menu planning, this time looking at how to get the best out of a traditional sequence of three or four courses.