Origin: Lakes District (England)
Type: Single Malt English Whisky
Added colouring: No
Origin: The Lakes Distillery Company Limited
Official website: www.lakesdistillery.com
On the occasion of a recent tasting organised by the Whisky Club Italia in collaboration with the Italian importer Beija Flor, in the presence of Andy Boughey, the distillery’s Export Sales Director, I was able to try five expressions created by the young distillery The Lakes, nestled in the natural park of the Lakes District in the north west of England.
The Lakes was founded by Paul Currie, whose father worked for years for Chivas Brothers and who had already founded the distillery in Arran with the latter in 1995: after selling the ownership of the company, he decided to create a distillery in an area of England with a truly unique and majestic beauty.
It all started with an old farm on the banks of the River Derwent, which in 2014 became the current distillery and began producing whisky (as well as gin) under the close direction of whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi, who instils an almost scientific approach to the creation of the distillate.
Great attention is paid to fermentation, the distillation process and the choice of casks, overshadowing all those concepts of terroir and attention to raw materials that many distilleries are instead pushing in their own narrative.
Dhavall’s path is guided solely by the search for aromas and flavours, where casks are only a means and not an end, hence the scant information given on the ageing used for each bottling: mainly ex-Sherry casks, but which ones and in what proportions is information known only to the whisky maker and his collaborators (and perhaps not even to them).
In this article, you will find four of the main expressions made by the distillery, all of which have no age statement like their entire range: the fifth tried in the tasting, being a blended scotch whisky, will be covered in the future.
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions – Soleado
Aheing casks: N/A
Average price: € 200.00
The journey around the lake begins with the Whiskymaker’s Editions, a series of limited edition bottlings that deviate from Duvall’s usual choice of ex-Sherry casks to explore new aromas and flavours, according to that holistic inspiration that guides his inspiration.
Six expressions (here we will try two), with alcohol content starting at 46%ABV, of which nothing is revealed: the casks used are not important, what counts are the evocations found in the glass, the result of the whiskymaker’s blending.
Trying to grasp what they are can be an amusing but fundamentally sterile exercise: despite the scientific and almost maniacal approach to the creation of these whiskies, here it’s not the journey that is important but the point of arrival.
This Soleado, released in 2022 in 260 bottles, is inspired by Duvall’s many trips to Andalusia in search of casks for his blending, and its name already evokes the sun and warmth of those lands.
The nose is dominated by citrus fruits, with mandarins and orange marmalade emerging overbearingly from the glass riding waves of butter and honey, surrounded by flowers (orange and honeysuckle) and a very light spicy note of cinnamon. The aromas don’t lose their intensity even with time, becoming warmer and more sugary to the point of cloying.
In the mouth, the spicy part grows, adding to the cinnamon some handfuls of pepper and ginger that punctuate the flavours still declined in fruit but with a lesser incidence of citrus: apricot, pineapple, plum and lemon take on body along with almonds and liquorice root. The notes veer towards the bitter side, with aniseed and herbaceous components that emerge strongly over time, supported by a certain alcoholic exuberance.
The finish isn’t very long and dry, of fruit with citrus inflections, herbaceous notes and light spicy touches.
A whisky that thrives on a radical dichotomy, where the nose fully grasps the evocations intended by its name only to turn upside down and get completely lost on the palate, which becomes more familiar and less incisive. This is a pity, because although a little excessive (to my taste, of course), the aromas were interesting and different, I would have preferred more consistency in the drinking.
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions – Mosaic
Aheing casks: N/A
Average price: € 90.00
And after Spain, Duvall takes us along the Silk Road to discover the aromatic evocations of the East, mixing the casks at his disposal to create, in 2022 in 2,500 bottles, a whisky suspended between two worlds, with a soul at once agricultural and metropolitan… or so it is described.
As expected, spices appear on the nose, declined in cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon and sandalwood, enveloping scents suspended between sherry and rum: brown sugar, caramel, candied orange, raspberry jam, dates. It is reminiscent of makroud, Tunisian date-based sweets. The aromas are trail by a thread of incense. Seductive.
In the mouth, it’s soft and silky, the spices blend with dried fruit (dates, plums, peaches), butter, molasses, tobacco and a hint of fresh wood. A balsamic hint emerges on the length, without compromising the structure but giving an additional note of character.
Not very long finish of ginger, sandalwood, dates, caramel, incense.
Sinuous and elegant, enveloping, a profile that hints at the casks that composed it, finding an excellent point of balance even if not particularly deep. It lacks incisiveness, but perhaps this was not even intended: it makes you drink it, much, much too willingly.
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No. 5
Aheing casks: Ex-Sherry Oloroso, PX and red wine
Average price: € 80.00
The Whiskymaker’s Reserve is a series that follows Duvall’s inspirations in creating ever-changing expressions from ex-Sherry casks, seeking to make the most of the blending of the casks.
Five consecutive bottlings, of which this is the most recent (released in April 2022) and is made from ex-Sherry casks and ex-American wine, in a limited edition of 5,500 bottles, defined by its creator as “sober and elegant”.
A nose with warm, spicy tones, where red fruits (raspberries, blueberries, cherries) meet nutmeg and cinnamon, united in a soft, buttery cream with touches of strawberry jam, dried figs and sultanas. Undertones of coffee beans and lacquered wood. Almost invisible alcohol content, only a slight tannic astringency emerges at times. Sober and elegant, very true.
Creamy on the palate, ginger and pepper anticipate the flavours still declined in the nuances of sherry (more oloroso than PX) and red wine, which here emerges with some more asperity and astringency. Warm and rough at the same time, the red fruit compote embraces candied orange peel, liquorice, chocolate, dried figs and pine nuts, spread over leather and tobacco leaves. Nutmeg and cinnamon complete the picture, intense and dark.
The finish is quite long and slightly tannic, of spices, lacquered wood, chocolate, coffee, almonds and a slight balsamic/menthol scent.
A very ‘thick’, solid whisky that lives up to the promises of its creator by creating a non-trivial and elegant sherried, devoid of excesses and smears. If you really want to find a flaw in it, perhaps it lacks emotion, but this is a completely subjective impression: we need more sherried drams like this.
The Lakes Quatrefoil Collection: Faith
Aheing casks: Ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry Oloroso and PX
Average price: € 300.00
The Quatrefoil series is intended to represent the essence of the distillery, with the logo’s four pillars of their creed: faith, hope, luck and love.
Again starting from ex-Sherry casks, the four bottlings highlight different aspects of maturation, delving into the possibilities that American and European woods can offer.
The first to be released in 2018 is this Faith, 1,000 bottles cask strength, which draws its inspiration from the Striding Edge, a walk on the ridge of the mountains surrounding the lake that requires courage and, indeed, faith from those who decide to walk it.
Initial maturation in American and Spanish casks seasoned with bourbon and oloroso sherry, followed by ageing in both American and Spanish ex PX hogsheads.
The albeit high alcohol content is completely absent from the nose, which after an initial burst of sourness turns decidedly towards darker, more decadent notes, somewhat reminiscent of the Italian “Pan dei morti”: dried figs, sultanas, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds. And malt, a note that in the very young whiskies tried so far has been incredibly absent. In length, vaguely balsamic veins.
It’s in the mouth that the alcohol makes itself felt, although without overpowering, propelling a bitter-sweet tasting in which the impressions of red fruits are tinged with aniseed and liquorice, with the spices in counter-field on chocolate, coffee, almonds and again a subtle balsamic thread in the background.
Medium-long finish, still playing on the sweet and bitter notes, with a slight salinity in the background and slightly balsamic.
More interesting on the nose than in the mouth, a whisky that compared to its later brothers struggles to camouflage its youth, showing itself still immature and developing, but already with that potential expressed in later incarnations.
In conclusion, four young whiskies (we are well under ten years old) that nevertheless show character and incisiveness, albeit in different gradations, in which the work on the casks is evident and meticulous and promises great things in the future.
The risk is, perhaps, that of placing more emphasis on research than substance, but as Reserve No. 5 and Mosaic demonstrate, the end result can go far beyond mere scientific dissection.