A long Weekend in the Lake District, Part Three
The Lakes Distillery
Another of those 40 things to do when you’ve been married for forty years, which happened, by a quirk of Mrs Cross engineered fate to coincide with my 66th birthday, was a day trip to the Lakes Distillery. Although I’m always a bit wary of stuff like this, believing that style and presentation often outweigh substance, I was in no position to decline, especially as Mrs C was missing Carlisle at home in the 1st round of the FA Cup (they beat Oldham 3-2), no doubt I’ll be reminded of this in the months and years to come.
The Lakes Distillery is situated in Cumbria, West of Keswick. It operates from a lovingly and fastidiously restored Victorian Model Farm and is the brainchild of a man called Paul Currie. It makes whisky, gin and vodka and the first batch of single malts will be released for sale, in very limited amounts, later this year. This place is more than just a business though, it has become a thriving visitor attraction and now, in my view, one of the “must do’s” during any visit to the Northern Lakes.
One of the easiest ways to get to the distillery is by bus, although I wouldn’t recommend the front seats upstairs, the roads are quite narrow. Buses from Penrith, Keswick, Cockermouth and West Cumbria stop directly outside every two hours or so, ample time for a tour or, let two or three come and go and enjoy the tour, a lovely meal and several drinks before de-camping back to base or into Keswick for more drinks or just a wander down to the Lakeside.
Gin and Vodka are the same, apart from the fact that gin is created by adding botanicals. The Lakes Distillery Gin uses water from the River Derwent (the only water used in the distilling process) and a blend of spices, herbs and roots, including coriander seed, to create a nice smooth drink, but I won’t labour that point, I don’t want to spoil the trip for you.
The Tour lasts for about an hour, starting in the shop and finishing in the tasting room. Again, I won’t spoil it by describing it in detail but it is informative and professionally done, our guide was called Ruth, if you get her to lead the tour you go on you won’t be disappointed.
The tasting room, like everything else seems perfectly suited to the business at hand. Whisky, Gin and Vodka are dispensed in decent measures and some instruction given on using the nose and different parts of the mouth to appreciate the subtleties of the drinks. The whisky, a blend called The One, is decent enough if you like that sort of thing. I am keen to taste the malt in a couple of years. Many people have laid down hogs heads, the warehouse is full of them, that are expected to be worth huge sums in years to come. Some of the names on the casks are quite intriguing too. Photography is not allowed in the Distillery or the Warehouse, sorry! You might get lucky and share your tasting table with others that don’t like one spirit or another, if so there is no requirement to be churlish. The gin and vodka are both excellent drinks, bottoms up.
The on-site Bistro is a must, all the usual things that you might expect alongside a “Menu of the Day” with 2 courses for £12 and 3 for £15. This menu changes frequently but I chose gin cured trout with cucumber and pink grapefruit, pan fried coley fillet and sour cherry sorbet, one of my companions chose the pork belly. All excellently cooked and beautifully presented in portions that satisfied without overwhelming. A word of caution, the wine list isn’t on the table, you need to ask for it but that is the only tiny complaint I could find to make.
Following our splendid lunch and a couple of postprandial G&T’s we repaired to the shop, my children had kindly sent me a £50 gift voucher and it was burning a hole in my pocket, so to speak. The ticket for the tour doubles as a £5 off any bottle voucher, no bad thing because I’m sure you won’t want to go home “empty handed”.
Clever marketing has lead to distinctive bottle shaping and colouring but don’t let this fool you, the contents, which are all available for tasting before buying, are excellent. The spirits are all “export” strength or better and the liqueurs are 25% abv. I bought a bottle of Lakes Gin and, with Christmas in mind (Mrs C too) a bottle of Salted Caramel Vodka.
Following our day out we travelled back into Keswick for a visit to the gin bar at The Inn on the Square, a menu full of gin and gin cocktails which is probably unsurpassed this far north in England. I know gin is “fashionable” at the moment but that is no reason not to enjoy it if you want to. I have no hesitation in recommending this excursion as part of a long weekend in the Lakes. Good fun, excellent food, great drinks and no need to worry about driving. Birthday or not, wedding anniversary or not, a splendid and excellent value day out.
© Coloniescross 2017