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Pursuing the dream

Paul Currie, managing director and founder of The Lakes Distillery, talks us through the launch of the first English whisky, gin and vodka distillery in Cumbria

Paul Currie The Lakes Distillery

Paul Currie grew up around whisky. His father was MD of a global whisky business and in 1995, father and son joined forces to set up the Isle of Arran Distillers, the first new independent whisky distillery in Scotland for many decades. 

Paul moved on from Arran and is pursuing his dream of establishing the first ever official distillery in the Lake District. But success hasn’t come easily. Paul’s search to find the perfect location, the right team, specific resources (namely a source of water), secure funding and navigate numerous planning regulations has taken over three years.

Finally, work began earlier this year in renovating the historic buildings of an old Victorian Model Farm next to the famous River Derwent and close to Bassenthwaite Lake, with the aim to produce a new world-class single malt whisky. In August this year, The Lakes Distillery will start producing single malt whisky, gin and vodka. 

We are in the midst of an English whisky revolution with several new distilleries coming on stream in 2014, what makes The Lakes Distillery unique?

England is part of a global evolution of new distillers. Until 2005, there had not been a distillery in England for 100 years.

Whisky distilleries are opening globally. Our customers are becoming more attuned to having whiskies from outside the traditional producers such as Scotland and Ireland, and whisky aficionados are actively looking for whisky from other countries. The Lakes Distillery is a £5m investment and will be the biggest distillery in England when it opens later this year.

Our team includes master distiller Chris Anderson and Dr Alan Rutherford so we have tremendous expertise as The Lakes Distillery. Our expectations of what we’ll achieve are considerable.

From August 2014, we will begin production of The Lakes Single Malt, our lightly peated liquid gold, which we expect to be more akin to highland whiskies, and which will be available from 2017. We will use water sourced directly from the River Derwent and distil on site. We are the first distillery to use both copper and stainless steel condensers in our distilling process which we believe will develop a malt with a greater character.

It’s not every day a new distillery is born and a very select group of just 60 whisky enthusiasts have the opportunity to own a specially produced oak sherry cask filled with approximately 100 bottles of The Lakes Single Malt. As a member of our exclusive Connoisseurs’ Club, you can be there on the historic first day of production to make the whisky yourself, fill your own Connoisseur’s Cask and see it stored in the distillery warehouse.

Alternatively, members of our Founders’ Club will receive a 70cl bottle of outstanding malt once a year for 10 years from the first 100 casks produced, plus two 5cl miniatures. Each will bear a unique and limited edition label, recognising the bottles as products of the first casks ever produced at The Lakes Distillery. These bottles of unique malt whisky, matured in sherry and bourbon casks, will not be available to the general public and are reserved exclusively for Founders’ Club members.

How has The Lakes Distillery been received by the drinks market to date?

Six months ago we launched our first brand, The ONE, which is the first blend of whiskies from around the British Isles.

We searched far and wide to bring together a range of very special whiskies which have been blended to create a perfectly balanced whisky. It has received a hugely positive reaction, both for its smooth, slightly peaty taste and for its eye catching packaging. This summer, we will also begin production of The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka which will be available in the autumn.

How did you approach developing the brand for your new suite of products?

We knew designing the right brand and feel for The Lakes Distillery and our products was key. Branding goes beyond just a logo or graphic element – we have a unique and distinctive personality, which was vital to convey through our brand. We’re not the same as other whisky brands, so we shouldn’t look the same – while others have intricate designs, we are minimalist and contemporary.

We effectively started with a blank canvas and, although Cumbria is a legitimate part of the Celtic region, we want to be perceived as clearly different as the only Cumbrian distillery, so any Celtic design elements or iconography were immediately excluded.

The demographic of whisky drinkers is evolving; we’re seeing more women enjoying the drink and also a younger market. As we had our ‘blank canvas’, we could design a brand that appealed to these new audiences while not excluding traditional whisky drinkers or a future international market.

We’re a new distillery, we’re unique and we have unique products, including the first British blend of whiskies – it is the one and only British blend, which is why we call it The ONE. This is not only our name, but also both our USP and proposition: ‘We only ever drink The ONE British blend’.

The clear, minimalist design of The ONE is also reflected in the packaging for The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka, which have become our family of The Lakes Distillery spirits.

The Lakes Malt is the jewel in the crown of our products and as such needed to stand out. We drew inspiration from the quatrefoil design, which features heavily throughout our distillery buildings. The four corners represent hope, faith, luck and love, key elements in the birth of any new distillery and a statement which has become the official toast of The Lakes Malt.

Through the quatrefoils we can build the heritage of our buildings, Cumbria and the team behind The Lakes Distillery into our new product.

Plans for the future?

The distillery itself will be a major visitor attraction in The Lake District, and is forecasted to attract 50,000 visitors per annum. The tourism market sees 15 million visitors to the Lake District per year, with The Lakes Distillery being just six miles from the popular tourism area of Keswick. (In Scotland 8% of tourists visit a distillery).

Opening late 2014, The Lakes Distillery will boast an on-site visitor centre complete with interactive information area and tasting room. It will offer visitors the chance to venture into the distillery and see exactly how The Lakes Malt, The Lakes Vodka and The Lakes Gin are made, as well as providing the opportunity to visit its warehouse filled with maturing whisky. Tours will be accompanied by an expert guide and will end with the chance for visitors to sample distillery products for themselves.

However, for those who wish to see the distillery as it grows, we have recently launched a pre-opening visitor reception situated in the house next to the distillery. This will welcome visitors from 11am until 4pm every day, allowing them to see progress at the distillery as it develops, find out all about the distillery’s story so far, enjoy a complimentary tasting of The ONE and indulge in a bit of retail therapy at its shop.

About The Lakes Distillery

The Lakes Distillery is situated close to Bassenthwaite Lake in an area of outstanding beauty encircled by Cumbrian fells.

The team behind the distillery, which includes managing director Paul Currie who co founded the Arran Distillery, master distiller Chris Anderson with over 30 years’ experience and Alan Rutherford a former production director of Diageo, are renovating the historic buildings of an old Victorian Model Farm next to the river Derwent and close to Bassenthwaite Lake, with the aim to produce a new world-class single malt whisky.

The company has launched a Connoisseurs’ Club, offering the opportunity for just 60 members to own their own very rare cask of The Lakes Malt.

Each cask is estimated to contain more than 100 bottles and members can be there on that historic first day to make the whisky themselves, fill their own Connoisseur’s Cask and see it stored in the distillery warehouse. The Connoisseurs’ Club limited membership costs £12,000, which includes the unique signature cask, exclusive annual events, accommodation at the nearby 4-star Trout Hotel, delivery, all duty and VAT. It’s estimated if kept, the cask will be worth over £20,000 in years to come.

The distillery is setting aside the first 100 casks of malt whisky for members of its Founders’ Club.

The Lakes Distillery will open to the public in late 2014.


Netherlands - launched Dec with Van Wees.
France - launching this month with La Maison du Whisky
Belgium - launching this month with Nectar

UAE - launching in May with MMI

Spain/Poland - currently in discussions with potential distributors


9 June 2014