INTERVIEW WITH Paul Currie, Founder, The Lakes Distillery
“The Lake District is a hugely popular tourist area, we aim to be a major attraction to the 15 million visitors who come each year. Distillery tours will start in an information area which will include a video, your expert entertaining guide will then take you through to the distillery to reveal the secrets of how malt whisky and gin are made. You will be taken through the warehouse, where whisky peacefully matures in casks, and on to the tasting room, where you can taste our products for yourself”. A wee statement from The Lakes to pen our chat. Let’s get right into this…
Good morning Paul, a wee venture for me this trip to England! Thank you for the time for this interview, we hope it benefits the distillery for future interest. Can I ask, what made you head to the Lakes from Arran? A; I was looking for a location that could offer the right environment for whisky production, plentiful water of the right quality, and a tourist area as it was always very much part of our plan to have a significant tourist business. The Lakes ticks all these boxes, and also offers us a great brand (The Lakes) which is well known around the world.
Can you tell me why you chose this location and its benefits? A; Wonderful old buildings (a Victorian Model Farm) and a beautiful setting next to the famous river Derwent, close to Bassenthwaite Lake.
What is your overall aim for the new distillery? A; We have great ambitions to produce the highest quality spirits and build these into significant global brands. We are on an artisan scale, but we are aiming high.
I hear you are keen on green! How will this affect the new distillery? A; We are being as green as we can. We looked at putting in a biomass boiler for the distillery, but at our scale the cost was just too high, but we are using a biomass to heat the rest of our buildings. Our distillery design reuses heat wherever possible, and the water is recycled.
Most of your malt whisky will be lightly peated, was this an attempt to emulate some Scotch whiskies? A; We are very much producing a new malt, The Lakes Malt, so we aren’t trying to copy anything in particular. We do want to offer a whisky that has broad appeal, and we hope being lightly peated will achieve that. Also, I do like lightly peated whiskies!
Do you have any plans for various finishes, ie; sherry, port, wine etc? A; Not necessarily finishes, but we are planning to be very innovative in our wood policy. Being south of the border, we don’t have to use only oak, so we can experiment with other woods – for example maple, chestnut and maybe birch. We will though mainly be using oak, including bourbon, sherry and quite a lot of new wood.
Where do you see your main markets for The One and your new malt (when available)? A; We very much have global aspirations for all of our brands, and by next year we plan to be selling in Europe, North America, and Asia.
Will you be marketing special brands? own label, or allowing cask purchasing? A; That is not our plan at present, but our customers can secure their own very special stock through our Founders’ and Connoisseurs’ Clubs
Technical time; where did you get the stills from and the other equipment? A; The stills are from McMillans, who have produced beautiful stills for us. The rest of the plant is from Musk, who supply the very best brewers in the UK, and are based near Burton on Trent. The quality of their plant is fantastic.
What made you select them? A; We wanted the very best in all our plant – no corners have been cut – so we went to the best manufacturers.
What is the annual output to be? A; We will start producing ca 150k lpa per year.
Do you intend to be a major player in the coming years, or retain a small manageable output? A; We will continue to produce ca 150k lpa, which as most of this will be destined for our Lakes Malt (some will in the future go into The ONE) is quite a high volume. So not the biggest, but we hope to be more than a minor player!
The quality of the casks is very important to any distillery, can you tell me who selects yours and where they originate? A; We are working closely with Speyside Cooperage for most of our casks, but are also sourcing some direct (for example, some sherry casks from Spain).
To the drams, your first dram will be The ONE – a British Isles Blended Whisky, who created this? And how has it been received? (note, I will be taking a bottle home, so we shall put you to the test with a group from Sweden shortly) A; The idea of creating the first British whisky was mine, but the brand name The ONE was the inspiration of our brilliant design agency, Hedley McEwan (who are based in Newcastle). The blend was put together by our team, in particular with Chris Anderson (our Master Distiller) and one of our directors Alan Rutherford (previously Diageo’s Production Director).
You have installed a good team, Alan Rutherford, a former production director at Diageo – which distillery? A; He was responsible for all of Diageo’s scotch whisky distilleries – so a lot! Your master distiller, Chris Anderson will be crossing the border from Scotland, where did he arrive from? A; Chris has been making whisky for most of his life. Originally from Islay, he managed all of Dewars’ distilleries – with his expertise, The Lakes Malt will be something very special.
How many staff do you have on a daily basis? A; We will have more than 40 employees, including those for our bistro, tours and shop.
Can you tell me more about the Founders’ Club? A; We are setting aside the first 100 casks to be produced at The Lakes Distillery, and Founders’ Club members will receive a bottle each year for 10 years as a collectible set. As we expect many to leave the bottles unopened, two miniatures are also sent each year so the maturing spirit can be tasted. This is truly an opportunity to be a part of whisky history – to have bottlings taken from the first ever Lakes Malt to be produced.
Finally, what dram do you settle down with at the end of the day? A; I really do love The ONE, so I know it is the obvious answer, but it is true! I can’t wait to try our Lakes Malt in the future. Also, I do like to try the many world whiskies that have emerged over the last years – there are some really great whiskies coming out of, for example, Australia and Sweden.
Paul, many thanks, it has been a pleasure! I shall return north with my bottle and share this with guests from Sweden and Finland coming for whisky tours soon. We also have a wing of our Angels Club in Perth, so we shall be the first to sample this. Please keep me informed of news, events and progress, we do have very interested club members! Paul’s note; You can see more at http://www.lakesdistillery.com/
Paul McLean is co owner of