Move over William Wordsworth. And Beatrice Potter.
An Indian whiskey-maker has produced “The World’s Best Vodka” and turned the UK’s Lake District into a very spiritual and even more creative and artistic region.
Dhavall Gandhi, the head distiller at the Lakes Distillery in Setmurthy near Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria, topped the judges poll at the 2019 “World’s Best Drinks” awards. His premium vodka was released last November. He also makes espresso and salted caramel vodkas made with spring water from a UNESCO World Heritage site. He also produces premium whiskey, single and malted.
Born in a village near Mumbai, Gandhi is a former corporate financier. “ I didn’t want to sit at a board-room studying spreadsheets. Having studied corporate finance and economics, I work in Charlotte for Ernst Young and discovered Kentucky bourbon. I studied distilling and brewing at Heriot-Watt in Glasgow before getting a job with Heineke, Then McCallan. And now the Lakes.
“My father and grandfather were whiskey lovers. I love sherry cask whiskeys. I have always had a nose! I remember sitting on the steps of Maker’s Mark and realizing this is what I want to do. And now I make vodka and gin! As well as liqueurs. Like damson gin and rhubarb and rosemary.
“My wife and I have moved eight times for my dream to come true. From the US to Edinburgh, Elgin, and the Lake District. And all to create my spirits.”
Working within a 160-year-old farmstead on the banks of the River Derwent, Dhavill has created a non-chill filtered single malt whiskey that expresses the Lakes. He calls his approach “holistic,” ensuring every flavor possibility is achieved. “ Whisky-making, in its highest form, is a dance between science and art, control and creativity. It necessitates being sensitive to how the climate affects the conversation between oak and air and spirit.
“Maturation is more than simply putting a spirit in some wood and waiting. Contrary to most contemporary distilleries’ use of ex-bourbon casks, 80-90% if our spirit is filled into different types of ex-sherry casks made from American, Spanish, or French oak. The casks are seasoned with Fino and Pedro Ximenez, as well as Oloroso. As well as red wine. Blending takes time. It is the same as the alchemy of perfumers. Our holistic approach to making our Whiskey maker’s Reserve and other whiskeys unlocks infinite variables and defines our outhouse style.”
The Lakes Distillery makes “Steel Bonnets” to commemorate the independent rebels of the English and Scottish marches. These frontier territories proved challenging to govern. In early English, to ‘reive’ was to rob, and from this were born ‘The Border Reivers,’ nicknamed the ‘Steel Bonnets’ after the helmets they wore for protection. These people did not see themselves as English or Scottish and developed absolute independence of spirit. “Clans both sides of the border claimed allegiance to Kin, not Kingdom, creating a unique blend of people that lived, loved, and died for each other. It is, therefore, a blend of kindred spirits.
The award-winning Lakes Distillery has also just released as a new Grapefruit Gin made with British wheat spirit, loose leaf tea, and mineral water drawn from the Lake District National Park. The p
Says Gandhi: “We produce our core beliefs – Faith, Hope, Luck, and Love.”