This week’s New Arrival is a MoM exclusive: a limited-edition single malt from The Lakes Distillery in England that is part-matured in Port casks. It’s called The Lakes Miramar!
We’ve long been fans of The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria here at Master of Malt. We’ve visited, made films, eaten at the great on-site restaurant and, most of all, enjoyed the excellent whisky coming out of this most gorgeously-situated English distillery.
Despite being founded as recently as 2011, the distillery has some solid whisky heritage. Co-founder Paul Currie was involved with setting up the Isle of Arran Distillery. Then in 2016, The Lakes announced a big signing, Dhavall Gandhi, who swapped the might and majesty of Macallan, for a small operation that had yet to release its own whisky.
For the love of sherry casks
Gandhi brought a love and knowledge of sherry casks on the journey down south. They have since become a key part of the distillery’s style. But he also gets to let his hair down a bit experimenting with different ageing regimes under the Whiskeymaker’s Edition banner.
So, when we were offered an exclusive English whisky just for Master of Malt, we jumped at the chance. This limited edition single malt is part-matured in Port casks and called ‘Miramar’, meaning ‘seaview’. It sounds much more glamorous in Portuguese conjuring up images of Lisbon rather than a bungalow in Birchington-on-Sea.
But before we take a look at Miramar, it’s worth going into The Lakes production process because it’s a bit unusual. Gandhi starts with the basic building blocks of Scotch whisky, and then makes them really complicated.
Broccoli and marshmallows
It all starts with the yeast. He uses three types: a traditional Scotch yeast, a French yeast, and a heritage yeast. As Gandhi puts it: “each yeast behaves like a child faced with a plate of broccoli and marshmallows. Given the choice, it will gorge on the sugariest treats first, until they, and it, are spent. That is why we activate each strain of yeast independently, on different days of the week, to ensure the most aggressive yeast doesn’t eat all of the ‘marshmallows’, leaving only the ‘broccoli’ for the weakest. We want each of the yeasts to interact with all of the fermentable sugars, to give the best possible character and flavour.”
So each fermentation with each yeast takes place separately producing three different washes. Each yeast brings something different to the party, the heritage yeast in particular creating waxy notes. Each fermentation takes 96 hours, double the time of most Scotch whiskies. Unusually, the washes go through malolactic fermentation where the sharp malic acid is turned into creamy lactic acid.
Keeping it complicated
Things get even more complicated on the distillation side because Gandhi creates two different new make spirits from each wash. One lot goes through a copper condenser and, as we all know, more copper contact equals a lighter spirit. The other goes through a stainless steel condenser which means more heavier compounds are kept. The spirit comes off the stills at around 67% ABV and it’s diluted down to 58% ABV. The three different yeast strains are blended before going into casks, with the different weights of new makes aged apart.
As you might have guessed by now, Gandhi has a bewildering choice of casks to choose from. As an ex-Macallan man, you know that he’s going to be pretty keen on sherry. Not just Oloroso but Fino, Cream, and PX, from American and European oak. He uses both 500-litre butts and 250-litre hogsheads. They are the basis of The Lakes’ style. He told us ahead of the distillery’s first single malt releases: “If you like sherry bombs you are going to like the initial releases of Lakes Distillery!”
Around 80-90% of the casks used are ex-sherry. But it’s not all about the sherry. There are bourbon casks, naturally. Gandhi can also play around with Moscatel, red wine casks, Port, and even orange wine casks – that’s a special kind of wine made from oranges popular in Southern Spain.
The Lakes Miramar
It’s those Port pipes, however, that are the inspiration for this week’s New Arrival. The whisky is part-matured in these giant 600-litre casks. It’s blended with bourbon-matured whisky so you get vanilla, coconut, and tropical fruit that you get from ex-bourbon casks, with red fruit and plums you get from maturation in a Port pipe.
Miramar is bottled at a punchy 54% ABV with no chill-filtering. It’s a delightful fun drop, happy sipped neat, as most of us do with single malt, but also a great mixer. That high ABV makes it a cocktail whisky par excellence. We love it in a simple Highball but The Lakes has come up with some more elaborate cocktails such as the Spritz recipe below. There’s also a suitably romantic label (below), designed by an artist called Tom Clohosy Cole, inspired by Lisbon. It’s almost as good a summer holiday in Portugal.
Fill a Highball glass with ice, add the first four ingredients, stir and top with kombucha. Garnish with a sprig of thyme and dried apricot.
Tasting notes from the Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Dried cherry, brandy snaps, fresh peaches, a waft of sea air and a touch of buttery malt.
Palate: Salted caramel tart, red plums, softly toasted barley, cinnamon, orange oil, still subtly coastal.
Finish: Lingering hints honey and stewed fruits last on the finish.
Only 600 individually-numbered bottles of The Lakes Miramar have been filled.
They are available exclusively from Master of Malt, one bottle per customer. It is now sold out.