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The Lakes Distillery: English whisky is here to stay

English whisky may seem like the stuff of fiction but, on the banks of Cumbria’s River Derwent, Ben Winstanley discovers a distillery ready to take on its Scottish cousins

Believe it or not, the Lake District only has one lake – well, technically speaking at least (sorry, geography buffs). But, beyond this pub quiz-worthy titbit, northern Cumbria’s Bassenthwaite Lake is now home to something equally unique: English whisky.

Follow the River Derwent upstream a few hundred metres and you’ll find the newly established Lakes Distillery. Established in 2012, it initially shot to prominence for an excellent gin, utilising locally foraged botanicals, but perhaps most notably for The One – a blend of whiskies taken from around the British Isles. Hiding within one of the restored 19th-century farmhouses, however, is its latest and most ambitious venture. Barrels of single malt whisky (no ‘e’ in whisky, of course – we’re firmly with the Scots on that debate) are undergoing the slow maturation process before a grand unveiling in late 2018.

Spirit producers may be an ever-increasing entity in London, and elsewhere in the UK, but The Lakes Distillery is one of a small handful to tackle the complex art of whisky making. Indeed, it’s one of the first in England for more than a hundred years to do so.

The expertise of master distiller Chris Anderson, a legend in the industry, is invaluable: he brings with him a lifetime’s experience in whisky distilleries north of the border, but to replicate such success on English soil is unprecedented.

Rightly, there is a great deal of anticipation ahead of the whisky’s release, but the very first people to try the spirit will be members of The Lakes Distillery Founders’ Club. Over the next ten years, the 2,975 members will receive one bottle annually to chart the progression of the maturing spirit (it’s alright for some).

So what can drinkers expect? A lightly peated spirit, akin to Highlands whisky, made with good old Yorkshire barley. At 12 months old, the liquid is already beginning to show signs of promise. Time will tell (two years to be exact), but it’s safe to say that the English are coming after the Scottish whisky crown – and our Celtic cousins should be worried.

Membership of The Lakes Distillery Founders’ Club costs £695 for exclusive access to ten bottles of The Lakes whisky, one every year. To join, go to lakesdistillery.com

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