The Lakes Distillery, est 2011
HOW YOU STARTED OUT
We started distilling in December 2014, after the company was established by our two founders in 2011. Paul Currie had already started Isle of Arran Distilleries, and Nigel Mills is an entrepreneur based in the north east of England. Paul wanted to establish a whisky distillery in England and the Lake District was where he went on his family holidays. He found this amazing site, a derelict Victorian building on the River Derwent and on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake, and thought that this was the perfect place to build a whisky distillery. I joined the company from The Macallan in 2016.
HOW YOU STARTED OUT
The house style I’ve been working on and created is very sherry-led, fruit-forward and flavour-packed. We follow the Scotch Whisky Association’s guidelines, but in our philosophy and style perspective I take different concepts. Whether it’s from the perfume industry or from brewing or from the cognac world, I call it ‘cross-domain information flow’.
We use unpeated barley and I produce two styles of new make spirit – Type A is our primary spirit, light to medium bodied and fruity, with very distinctive cucumber notes as well. Type B is medium to heavy, slightly more meaty, more waxy, more oily in character. We use different yeasts in different combinations throughout the week, and we go for a slow fermentation of 96 hours, allowing for a lot of copper contact and reflux during distillation to give us a fruity character. We also have both a stainless steel condenser and a copper condenser to give us different characters.
“We follow the Scotch Whisky Association’s guidelines, but in our philosophy and style perspective I take different concepts”
Then it’s time to play with the casks and with blending. We go for a very slow form of reduction that I borrowed from the cognac industry. Then we start the maturation process, predominantly in sherry casks but we also use a small proportion of bourbon and red wine casks. We also have different filling strengths of both 58 and 63% abv. I used the practice of élevage, again borrowed from cognac, where instead of letting the whisky just sit there for five or 10 years to mature, I nurture its character – that means I start with a core, maybe something to do with Pedro Ximenez, and it might have, rich dry fruit characters.
Then I might want to add a layer of ginger to it and a spicier layer so I might move to oloroso casks. It’s mostly to do with the oaks – it’s not just creating complexity for the sake of complexity.
It’s giving me something that I value and highly regard in terms of flavour and character. Then I start the blending process, hand-picking casks depending on the character I’m looking for.
Whisky is a language I use to express ideas and emotions. And the way I do that is through flavours and I jokingly say sometimes: “I paint with whisky.”