When a new distillery opens, their flagship product is often a whisky. But if you want to produce a single malt you have to wait at least three years while it matures. In the meantime, to start bringing a little cash in, they often make a vodka or a gin, which can be made and sold immediately. The worst thing they can do is think that the vodka, especially, is something to churn out quickly while they lavish their attention on the whisky.
However, if you don’t produce a good spirit, it reflects on your reputation before your star product has even come onto the market. So your vodka has to be as good as it can be.
The Lakes Distillery is one of England’s newest distilleries, and also the biggest whisky distillery in England. It was opened by Princess Anne, and sits in a wonderfully scenic spot in the Lake District, which was recently made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its single malt whisky will be ready later this year, and I can’t wait to try it.
They’ve already produced a blended whisky called The ONE, and the name reflects the fact that it was a blend of whiskies from around the British Isles, and it’s a deliciously smooth whisky. They’ve also produced several gins. I’ve tasted two of them and they are exceptionally good, especially the Explorer Edition, a super premium gin.
All of which brings me in a roundabout way to their vodka. The standard of their gin and whisky suggests the vodka is going to be impressive too – and it is. As with their other spirits, the water comes from the River Derwent, which runs right by the distillery. I can’t say where the spirit comes from, as they don’t say. But the spirit is triple-distilled and combined with the water to give us the 40% ABV end result.
The Art of Vodka
The Lakes Vodka comes in a chunky squat bottle which has become the distillery’s distinctive look. It’s a clear bottle whose artwork matches The Lakes Gin and The ONE, while still having an individual style to it. This is down to artist Carne Griffiths, who works with tea and various spirits in his work. He began by trying ink and brandy instead of in and water, and found that using alcohol takes colours deeper into the paper more quickly, and produces an ethereal, romantic look. He has since used whisky and vodka to paint with, and uses tea as well, and seems a great match for the Lakes Distillery.
Stare of a Lion is painted with ink and tea and you can buy a copy from the artist’s website:
However in the end it doesn’t matter what your label or bottle looks like, or where your water comes from, it all comes down to what the vodka is like. The proof of the vodka is in the drinking.
The Lakes Vodka is a standard 40% ABV, and on the nose smells warm and smooth, a result of the triple-distilling, no doubt. I thought there was a hint of fresh grass in there too – and no, I hadn’t just mowed the lawn!
The tasting notes say silky and smooth, and I wouldn’t argue with that. It’s got a well-rounded mouth feel and it’s definitely one to sip as well as use in cocktails. The tasting notes also suggest a hint of wheat, so maybe that’s the grassy scent I was getting, which is also there on the palate with perhaps a little of that wheaty savoury sweetness. There was also the distinctive taste I always get with a good vodka – liquorice.
All in all, then, a very good vodka of the kind you’d expect from a company which clearly values quality.
Lakes Vodka Cocktail Suggestion
Supporting the Lakes
One of the things that pleases me about the vodka world, and spirits in general, is how many good causes distillers support. I happen to know that Johnnie Walker does a lot of charitable work, while Glenfiddich has an artists in residence program and there are brands which give money to specific causes like Snow Leopard Vodka.
The Lakes Distillery supports different causes with its different spirits. The Lakes Gin supports the Cumbria Wildlife Trust and The ONE blended whisky supports Great North Ambulance. If you buy a copy of The Lakes Vodka, part of your money will go to Fix the Fells, an organisation that helps to maintain footpaths in the Lake District and to repair damage caused by erosion. If you like walking in the Lake District as well as drinking vodka (though hopefully not at the same time), then you know which vodka to buy: http://www.fixthefells.co.uk/
You can buy The Lakes Vodka from the Lakes Distillery’s online shop. There are various options, including gift packs, and you can even buy a Lakes Vodka golf umbrella! See: https://www.lakesdistillery.com/online-shop-c13/vodka-c3