Meet the Distiller
Paul Currie, Lakes Distillery
Set in the heart of the Lake District National Park, few distilleries can boast such a breathtaking location as The Lakes Distillery. Nor will many have faced the daunting challenge of renovating a derelict 160-year-old Victorian dairy farm – empty for 20 years – to establish their distillery.
Paul Currie, Founder and Managing Director, tells us the story of The Lakes Gin.
THE GIN GUILD: You’ve been in the spirits industry for many years, and co-founded the Arran Distillery. How did this lead you to establishing the Lakes Distillery?
PAUL CURRIE: “I have been involved in the spirits industry for most of my life. There has never been a better time to set up a new distillery, particularly one where the location offers a unique provenance.
‘The Lakes’ is a brand recognised worldwide, and we are proud to be the only distillery in both a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By using water from the nearby river Derwent and local botanicals in the distillation of our gins, we are truly producing a ‘Lakes Gin’.
Tourism is also important to build our brand, and already we have more than 100,000 visitors per year.
THE GIN GUILD: Can you tell us the story behind Lakes Distillery’s site and its conversion, what challenges did you face?
PAUL CURRIE: It was certainly not easy, as our distillery is in the Lake District National Park, where planning controls are tight. But our planners were very supportive, and could see the benefits to the community, as well as the benefits of our restoring historic buildings.
Our distillery used to be a Victorian Model Farm, the buildings are wonderful, made of local stone and slate, but were neglected. It is a very beautiful place, but we had to see past the dereliction
THE GIN GUILD: What is different about The Lakes Gin? How long did it take you to develop your gin recipe and what botanicals do you use?
PAUL CURRIE: The Lakes Gin is very much a product of the Lake District. We use local botanicals, including juniper from the fells, mint, heather and hawthorn, as well the traditional botanicals more regularly used in gin.
Our 1,500-litre pot still works its magic to produce a complex, delicious gin, with a slow distillation process of more than six hours.
THE GIN GUILD: How many gins do you produce and are you exporting, or is the UK your main market for gin?
PAUL CURRIE: We already have a range of gins, including our classic ‘Lakes Gin’, our ‘Lakes Gin Explorer Edition’ with a bigger botanical boost, as well as a range of flavoured liqueurs. Our main focus until now has been the UK, where we have grown rapidly, but now our attention is turning to export markets as well.
THE GIN GUILD: What awards have your gins won and how have these helped?
PAUL CURRIE: Awards are important, and we are proud that all our gins have been awarded at least silver medals in the most prestigious competitions. They certainly do help to give recognition.
THE GIN GUILD: What is your favourite way to enjoy a Lakes Distillery gin?
PAUL CURRIE: Personally, I like to be able to taste the gin, but I do prefer the addition of a little tonic! A ratio of 1 gin: 2 tonic works for me.
THE GIN GUILD: How popular are your distillery tours and tastings, and how important are they to the business?
PAUL CURRIE: We have more than 100,000 visitors to the distillery each year, enjoying tours, our shop and bistro. It is very important to our business, and our ability to build our brands, as we are creating a large army of fans.
THE GIN GUILD: Your bistro on site is thriving, does the distillery boost your restaurant trade and vice versa?
PAUL CURRIE: The bistro certainly helps to attract visitors. It is of high quality, listed in the Michelin guide, and we can also serve plenty of gin to our customers in the bistro as well!
THE GIN GUILD: Do you have any predictions for the gin industry?
PAUL CURRIE: I think the future is very bright. The ‘gin craze’ is strong in the UK and some other markets, but is yet to take off in many markets around the world. There is massive potential for growth.