#11.3 Birthday in the Borderlands

Crossing the borders for the Lakes (Day 3)

First distillery visit in England, in the gorgeous Lakes District

(missed Day 2 or Day 1?)

We woke up after a resting night in our hotel in Workington. The night before we had had the chance to explore the town, but after the restaurant and a pint we decided to head back to the hotel. At that point face masks weren’t mandatory anymore in England, in spite of the high Covid rates, and this wasn’t making us very comfortable.

Our hotel was only half-hour away from the distillery, but we decided to take the long road and drive through the Lakes region. The road was not the easiest, long chunks of single tracks (which we got acquainted with during our trips in the Highlands) and even some very steep ones, which Cliff took like a champion! This choice, however, rewarded us, as the landscape was truly beautiful!

Snooping around the Lakes District.

While driving through the posh village of Kenswick we also understood why we couldn’t find any decently priced accommodation for the night in the area. As we left the hills behind us, we entered in a very flat and smooth valley along Bassenwaite lake.

Cliff, you made it!

We were a bit ahead of schedule, so the fact that Gianluigi missed the turn (twice) for the distillery gave us the chance to explore the area even more! However, the third time is the charm (as someone would say…don’t know exactly whom though) and we finally arrived at the Lakes Distillery.

We learned about them a few years ago and we were both very curious about it. We had reserved the Lakes Whisky Tour at noon (hours are different now, every day at 11.30 and some days at 3.30pm), which is whisky focused. The regular tour instead includes vodka and gin production, which could be a solution if you are accompanied by non-whisky drinkers. Other options are the whisky and chocolate pairing (all Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3.30p), and the “pet the alpacas” experience.

Happy in the wind.

The whole site was clearly designed with visitors in mind, so while waiting for the tour to start, we had a coffee at their restaurant (which is a proper one!). We barely made it, because it was fully booked for lunch. This is something that surprised us, but considering the restrictions easing and that the distillery sits in a very touristic region, we could have expected it (so, if you want to have a meal there, booking is strongly suggested!). Our guide was Sonja, and she started the tour explaining how it took a while for the funders to find the right spot, which they found in the Victorian farmhouse where the distillery is built. The distillery opened in 2014, and they’ve been expanding their production by repurposing some of the buildings previously used for cask storage.

Yes, this used to be a farm.

We moved to a dark room where we watched a (spectacular but a bit too long) drone video following the water source of the distillery, the river Derwent, from the Sprinkling Tarn in the Lakes district to the Irish Sea in Workington (ah!). We moved to the production (where pics were not allowed), which is tightly fit in the old farm barn buildings. Here we could see something very peculiar: the spirit still has two condensers – a usual copper one and a stainless steel one. Sonja told us that it is there for experiments, it should produce a heavier new make because of the missing interaction with the copper. She also told us that none of the whisky released so far went through this condenser. The final part in the tour was in another dark room (not a warehouse, unfortunately), where we were talked through the effect of different types of wood on the whisky maturation.

Maturating whisky, maturing colour.

Afterwards Sonja led us to a different building, a beautiful house just on a wee hill behind the distillery, with the alpaca farm on the back: tasting time! After a wee pause for restroom, the tasting started with the newmake, followed by a 1 year-old dram aged in a sherry cask. This is very important to them, as the Lakes whisky style is generally very sherry/European oak forward. We moved on to a couple of their One, the line of their blended whisky, including other malts and grain whiskies from Scotland. We had the sherry and port finishes, both very drinkable (someone would say “drams for drinking, not for thinking”), displaying again the ability to play with different woods. Finally, we got a dram of their last (at the time) release, the Mosaic single malt. This very rich and aromatic dram would have been clearly the highlight of the tasting, but Sonja decided to give us an extra dram: the Whiskymaker Reserve N 4, which was truly great (and sold-out, ouch).

Tasting time!

After the tasting we had a wee meal at their restaurant, but just before that we went back to the shop for a wee taste of two other Ones: the Moscatel and the Orange Wine cask finishes. While the first was more balanced, the latter had a very particular note that we haven’t found anywhere else, so we went for that one. Finally, we got into the car and headed back to Leith, crossing the South of Scotland and some unexpected but amazing landscapes around Moffat and Biggar. Tipsy Teresa (she necked all of her drams, of course!) was definitely very happy for her birthday celebrations…while Gianluigi was already thinking about how to top this next year!

The house of the raising drams!

So, our first visit to an English whisky distillery happened, and it was good one indeedy! Thanks to the visit, we could see how their (former, apparently) whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi gave a very clear direction to their whisky. While definitely sherry-oriented, the drams we had were not “sherry bombs”, and the influence was more nuanced and balanced – we both thought Dhavall is an amazing blender. For us, some whiskies to keep an eye on and, unsurprisingly, we’ll likely return to visit!

The Lakes Distillery Whisky Tour

Price: £35.00 pp (March 2022)

Tasting: Lakes new make spirit, 1y malt spirit (ex-sherry cask), The One Port & Sherry finish blended whiskies (both 46.6%, NAS, NC, NCF), the Mosaic Single Malt (46.6%, NAS, NC, NCF)

Target: whisky enthusiasts and geeks

Value for money: Good

Highlights: the distillery is very beautiful and in a great spot

Link: https://www.lakesdistillery.com/

Author: Dramming Around

A pretend-to-be-young Italian couple on a quest to discover whisk(e)y distilleries and their golden nectar

%d bloggers like this: