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The Lakes lays out growth plans as new funding round launches

The Lakes Distillery says it is heading into an exciting period for its whisky portfolio after launching a funding round to support a threefold increase in production.

Since launching in 2014, the English company has built a name for itself among the global whisky community with its so-far limited stock releases hungrily snapped up by buyers and consumers. But growth is on the horizon.

In 2021, The Lakes completed a major renovation project which included a significant expansion to its whisky production capacity - from around 130,000 litres per annum to a maximum capacity of 375,000 litres. The £3 million project also included upgrades to its visitor experience, the creation of a state-of-the-art blending lab, and the construction of new whisky warehousing facilities.

Now, the company has opened a new funding round on Crowdcube as part of a broader funding push to help it ramp up whisky production. David Robinson, The Lakes' CFO,  says, "This new fund is aiming to raise £5 million which will at least allow us to double, and then eventually triple, single malt production capacity.

"It is an interesting time for the business. We are ready to put that [capital exenditure] investment to work. We are starting to release more stock, and if we can get the funding, it will encourage us and give us the confidence to release that stock more quickly."

Kirsty Taylor, The Lakes commercial director, says that the distillery wants to increase single malt production to 260,000 litres a year "as a bare minimum". 

"That is a credible size of global brand, but small enough for us to be able to maintain our interesting and different whisky-making techniques," she says. "As much as we have ambition and drive and passion, we know we are operating in a highly competitive environment.

"From 2019 until now, we have been building our consumer-led distribution strategy with international partners who are crying out for us to release more whisky, because we have been releasing such limited stock. We want the confidence to lay down more, so we can release more of our existing stock."

Based on the site of a Victorian dairy farm on the banks of the River Derwent, the distillery first began laying down spirit in 2014 and released its first single malt whisky in 2019. "We are doing a pretty good job at getting awareness out there, and starting to build a fine business for The Lakes Single Malt and being known for our sherry-led style," says Taylor.

The Lakes' whisky portfolio now includes its single malt, The One blended whisky, the innovative Whiskymaker's Editions series - previous releases have included Sequoia, Miramar and Mosaic - and The Whiskymaker's Reserve series, which explores the boundaries of its distillery style. 

The last installment in the latter series, The Whiskymaker's Reserve No.4, was named World's Best Single Malt at the 2022 World Whiskies Awards in March - the first time an English distiller has claimed this prestigious accolade.

The distillery's picturesque location in the Lake District, chosen by co-founders Paul Curry and Nigel Mills, was selected in part because of its similar microclimate to Scotland's top whisky-producing regions - but Taylor explains that the team is very much committed to carving out an English style of whisky, and a place for English whisky on the world stage.

"We do believe we are in the right place at the right time," she explains. "We believe that English whisky is going to become a recognised whisky - there are innovative styles and techniques coming out - but the traditional whisky-making countries are doing exciting things as well. Everyone is pushing each other to work harder to think about how exciting offerings can be made to the consumer. Then the consumer seems to be genuinely interested in what is happening in the industry. We would like to get to a point where the consumer does not think about traditional and non-traditional whisky-making countries."

The Lakes Distillery also produces a range of white spirits, established before its first whisky was bottled. This includes The Lakes Gin (the recipe for which was recently redesigned to be more representative of a "classic" London dry), The Lakes Pink Grapefruit Gin and The Lakes Vodka, as well as both vodka and gin-based liqueurs. While Taylor says The Lakes' white spirits will remain part of its portfolio "for many years to come", she makes clear that whisky making in general, and single malt in particular, is "without a doubt" the distillery's main focus.

Taylor concludes, "It is a really exciting time for us at The Lakes: seven years of spirit production, £30 million in, we are starting to get some really good reviews and good-quality distribution for The Lakes Single Malt in some of our target markets, but we believe the world is our oyster. We are looking forward with confidence to releasing more single malt into some of our chosen markets."

31 March 2022 - Bethany Whymark