Let us address the elephant in the auction room. The Lakes Distillery has done itself no favours with the release of the Quattro Formaggi, or whatever it’s called.
This speaks for itself: “Following the successful release by The Lakes Distillery of The Lakes Genesis single malt whisky, which sold at a record average bottle price of over £900, our whiskymaker, Dhavall Gandhi, introduces The Quatrefoil Collection.”
By drawing attention to an auction price, you’re aiming this at auction flippers – something we all pretty much knew anyway. This is for people who want to buy it not to drink; an investment. Fine. But that also says – without ever intending to – something very different.
When you do this, it says you and your board members are not confident that the quality of the product will build a brand. Whether it is good enough or not isn’t the point – there’s a lack of confidence. Or perhaps this decision was something to tickle the board members, a bit of self-gratification; or perhaps someone there never quite got the girl (or boy, depending on inclinations; this is 2018) at school, and this is some kind of late-life shorthand hack of feeling validated. “Look at me now, mom, I’m a big star!”
But the Audi Quattro whiskies have done nothing but annoy the fans that were starting to get excited about the distillery, particularly those who invested in the Founders’ Club whiskies. People like me. Yes, I thought that £500 for ten years of whisky was a decent splash, and it would be a great way of buying the first whiskies from this distillery. And so that’s really why I’m most annoyed: because I’ve already parted with cash at a previous promise, only to have had that initial promise broken. I can understand at thousand reasons as to why this sort of thing might have happened, and I’m sure I can listen to all the explanations as to why. Doesn’t stop me being annoyed – although I’m not as annoyed as many.
I just find the attempts at cloning The Macallan mildly embarrassing. The Macallan has, as Adam pointed out recently, built its brand up over three or four decades; but it built it on a reputation for quality in the first instance, even though that quality has dwindled greatly in recent years. This sort of thing can’t be manufactured overnight. It can’t be bought. It takes decades, and to do it in an instant comes across as insincere at best.
Anyway, we’ve given plenty of coverage to the Lakes Distillery recently, including Adam’s excellent trip, so let’s look at what year three of the Founders’ Club brings forth. This was meant to be the first whisky, of course.
Two sets of tasting notes, from me and Adam, you lucky things.
Lakes Distillery – 3 Year Old – Founders’ Club – Mark’s Review
Colour: deep gold.
On the nose: sweet, very sweet; the sherry casks have kicked in. It’s almost perfumed in fact, very floral, jasmine and old roses: that kind of sweetness. Plenty of dried fruits in there, at the upper end of the scale: apricots, sultanas. A few dried cranberries, but there’s not a huge amount of tartness to balance. We drift into honey, a little toffee, baked apples and golden syrup.
In the mouth: there is some lovely balance between that intense sweetness, and an underlying maltiness, which the very well made spirit delivers. It echoes the nose: baked apples in golden syrup, a little digestive biscuit quality, milk chocolate. Slightly dusty. But then, all the sweetness again – a contrast to anything the distillery has put out before, and I’m now unsure of the distillery style. Ginger. Vanilla. A medium oiliness, with not all that much texture. It’s very alive on the finish, perhaps an overwhelming spiciness of coriander and chilli heat, which detracts a little too much; but at least it’s got a long finish worthy of mention. The flavours are all simple, found elsewhere, but here it’s actually very well expressed. There’s an elegance.
Annoyingly good for its age. Better than lots of Scotch whisky doing the rounds at two or three times the age. See, there is a quality here, and if they had patience and self-belief, they’d be absolutely fine. Given all the faff and circle-jerkery with their Quattro Stagioni series, I am begrudgingly still an admirer. If they don’t do anything silly within the next couple of years, they will be redeemed in my eyes. Just about…
Colour: Cask-aged Somerset Cider.
On the nose: There’s instantly more fruit than in previous Lakes Founders Editions. From the Cotswolds school of red berries, orange peel and dabs of peaches and cream. Harder-edged than Cotswolds though; sawn spicy wood lignin. A shade spicy. Less rounded than Cotswolds fare. Nice though.
In the mouth: Creamier on the palate by far, and those orchard fruits with dairy hints are the stars. Loads of citrus peel with touches of pine. It’s still a smidge spiky but the immaturity of previous iterations is gone, and the milk biscuit and malt is balanced by ripe fruit. Nectarines and gently sweet spice. It’s a tasty thing.
The Lakes Distillery is on a journey, and whilst this doesn’t represent the style of whisky they are aiming for (they’re after something far more sherried than this) it’s perfectly pleasant and represents a quantum leap from Founders Part Two. There’s complexity now. You can taste the change of direction made under Dhavall Ghandi’s watchful eye. It augurs well for Part Four. I suspect there will be many eyes on The Lakes Distillery in the meantime.