When The Lakes Distillery first came to market, their blend The One acted as both a stop gap for the consumer between the distillery opening and being able to release their own product and it was also a first for the market: the first British blend of whiskies, i.e. the first bottled blend featuring a combination of whiskies originating from the four home nations.
It has been well documented within the whisky world (as well as here on WhiskyUnplugged) however that times have changed at The Lakes and with the benefit of hindsight and a humility and open honesty to change and learn, The Lakes Distillery have vested in the craftsmanship and vision of their “Whiskymaker” Dhavall Gandhi, and with it, The One has changed too. Along with some refined branding and distribution, The One has changed from focussing on the British element to its new name and status as a “Fine Blended Whisky”. The leading exponent of this change is their Signature Blend. A 46.6% ABV blend of scotch grains and malts from the Highlands, Speyside and Islay, with the Lakes’ own single malt whisky at its core. In 2019 and 2020, the Signature Blend has been joined by other cask finishes, which have taken the same ingredient whisky and have aged it through casks which have each previously housed different alcohols. There has been the Sherry Cask Finished, the Port Cask Finished, the Orange Wine Cask Finished and today, 25th February 2021, the Moscatel Wine Cask Finished joins the roster.
As fans of The Lakes, we were happy to share the press release for the release of The Moscatel Wine Cask last week (see here) which contains more details about the whisky, but in summary we are again dealing with the same ingredients that constitute The One Signature Blend, but this time the blend has been finished in Moscatel wine casks from southern Spain and is presented at the same strength of 46.6% ABV.
A very heady and floral start to this. Heather honey is the first flavour that I can pinpoint from that sweet and floral start, and then there’s a real flash of fruity notes: orange zest, apricot, and mango flavours all standing out. They’re all supported by a sweet and soft smoke that underpins the whole experience.
Oooh a soft vanilla and almost yoghurt-y flavour and softness rolls across the tongue with stone fruits being added along the way. Actually, make that peaches and cream. There’s a nice dark sugary sweetness to this too, like a crunchy muscovado sugar on top a coffee cake. The smoke takes a back seat once again and a little oak warmth pads out the profile.
Pretty clean and sweet. As the orange and stone fruits fizzle out, the soft smoke and creamy vanilla oak linger and really complement each other well – no one element taking the lead at all.
Soft and sweet are the two words that I keep coming back to on this one. There’s a delicious freshness to it courtesy of those summery fruit flavours that make the whisky really zip around the tongue. In fact it is more of a spring/summer type of whisky. Light and fresh. Definitely more of a dessert oriented experience too, as you would hope from a Moscatel wine influence. A very nice and bright dram in its own right, but one of the more interesting elements here – certainly as far as the whisky nerd is concerned – is that The Lakes have taken the same recipe as their revised Signature Blend and have shown us what the final cask influence can really impart. I find that you can only really tell that when actually comparing the two drinks alongside one another and so… here is a side by side comparison between the The Lakes’s The One Signature Blend and this new Moscatel Wine Finish…
Signature vs Moscatel
Wow. When you do nose them side by side, the Signature seems a little rougher around the edges than this Moscatel finish. Or maybe I should say that the Moscatel finish has really smoothed the edges of the Signature Blend? Either way the Signature is a more direct and oaky experience, and the Moscatel seeming like a much lighter, fruitier and breezier whisky, even though they carry the exact same percentage. When it comes to the palate, the Moscatel seems to have really brought the fruity components of the Signature to life, and the Signature seems almost muted by comparison when going back and forth between the two. That’s not intended as a bad reflection the Signature itself, but that creamier, fruitier and sweeter delivery from the Moscatel really gives it a shot in the arm to the Signature’s latent vanilla and light fruit notes. The smoke seems to come across more in the Signature and it’s oak housing seems more dominant as it delivers much more of a white peppery spice and heat. The Moscatel does have that smoke and warmth, but it’s much more dialled down and is on par with the creamier and fruitier aspects to the whisky.
Back to the Moscatel
At £48 a bottle, I think some people would hesitate at getting one, as you have that age old battle with no age statement (NAS) bottling and price, where a clear age statement (eg 12 years) seems to correlate with a certain price bracket and a confidence in buying some provenance, whereas NAS all comes down to trust in the brand and blender. Of course, you also have the snobbery associated with blends vs single malts. I don’t have time for that. Here, when doing the side by side tasting, I would say that the Moscatel is worth the hike in price.
As mentioned above, the Moscatel wine cask finish is the latest edition in a series of The One’s revamped “Fine Blended Whisky” guise. Through Dhavall’s holistic and methodical approach, the often guarded secret of a blender’s experimentation with cask influence is essentially being shared with all consumers here. In my mind, this makes for an innovative and welcome transparency on the mysteries and intricacies of the whisky world, and all the more enjoyable for the whisky enthusiast. I certainly rattled through my bottle of the Sherry cask version and could easily see myself getting through a 70cl bottle of this Moscatel finish in no time at all.
Sample disclosure: this sample was received directly from the distillery as part of the promotion for the launch of the Moscatel Wine Cask Finished version of The One. There is no obligation to write anything and all notes are intended as an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky itself and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.