New Zealand Whisky

Contributor: Luke Summers

New Zealand flag

Setting the scene

The indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, call New Zealand ‘Aotearoa’ – which means ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’.

Famous for its stunning beauty of snow capped mountains, tranquil forest and sweeping green vistas – it comes as no surprise that New Zealand has some of the purest air and water on earth.

With the exceptional natural resources and a history of distillation, New Zealand is the perfect setting for producing world class whisky.

An island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is home to the most southerly whisky distilleries in the world.

New Zealand whisky distilleries are producing both single malt whisky and blended whisky; and these unique and wonderful whiskies are starting to gain attention around the globe.

An introduction to the whiskies of New Zealand

New Zealand whiskies are predominantly single malts, though a number of blended whiskies have also been produced.

Whiskies produced using stock from the famous Willowbank Distillery are often said to have similar characteristics to single malt whisky produced in the Lowland or Speyside regions of Scotland – such as delicate aromas, a lighter body, hints of sweetness and a smooth finish.

A number of New Zealand whiskies also have a distinct smokey character, particularly some Lammerlaw whiskies (no longer being produced), The Coaster, and Old Hokonui.

New Zealand whisky distilleries

Willowbank Distillery (also known as ‘Wilson’s Distillery’)

The Willowbank Distillery was established by the Baker family, with production commencing in December 1969. In 1974 the first whisky went on sale and the company was renamed Wilson Distillers Ltd. Located in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand, Willowbank was the most southerly whisky distillery in the world. The distillery was acquired by Seagram Company Ltd in 1981. Under Seagram’s ownership the distillery released the 10 year old Lammerlaw Whisky, named after the nearby mountain range. Sadly, the distillery ceased production in 1997 as Seagram’s rationalised their business portfolio and sold the business to the Foster’s Group. The distillery was mothballed in 2000 and the stills were reportedly shipped to Fiji for the production of rum.

The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company (NZMWC) secured the remaining whisky stocks, still ageing in barrels. NZMWC has sold the single malt whisky obtained from the Willowbank Distillery under the Milford brand, along with blended whiskies under the Prestons brand. The owners of the Willowbank whisky stocks, The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company & Preston Associates Limited went into receivership in early 2010, and for a period the fate of NZMWC was unknown.

The company was revived in late 2010 when American, Australian and New Zealand investors came together to breathe life back into NZMWC. The company name has since been shortened to the ‘New Zealand Whisky Company’ and in addition to the existing product line, a new range of whiskies was introduced in 2011. The company has released New Zealand’s oldest whisky: a 24 year old cask strength whisky named ‘Touch Pause Engage’. The whisky commemorates the first Rugby World Cup, which was held in 1987. The whisky is named after the old referee scrum commands: Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage.

Southern Distilleries Ltd

The main distillery complex for Southern Distilleries Ltd is located in the city of Timaru, in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand.

In addition to other spirits produced, the Southern Distilleries Ltd range includes ‘The Coaster Single Malt Whiskey’ and two blended whiskeys: ‘Old Hokonui Blended Malt Whiskey’ and ‘The MacKenzie Blended Malt Whiskey’. Southern Distilleries Ltd has opted to use the spelling commonly adopted in America and Ireland: labelling their products as ‘whiskey’ rather than ‘whisky’.

Southern Grain Spirits New Zealand Ltd

The Southern Grain Spirits Distillery is located in the town of Kaiapoi, in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand.

Along with a range of other spirits, the distillery’s product range includes the Fitzpatrick 13 year old Kaiapoi Single Malt Whisky (limited to 2000 bottles) and a blended whisky: ‘Sheperd’s Export Whisky’.

Thomson Whisky New Zealand

Thomson Whisky are independent bottlers that use New Zealand whisky stocks from another producer. The Thomson Whisky range has included 10, 11, 17 and 18 year old single malts. An 18 year old single cask whisky and an 8 year old blended whisky are also currently available. All the bottled whisky stocks are from the Willowbank distillery (no longer in operation).

They intend to produce their own whisky from early 2013. The whisky will be distilled using a copper pot still and the whisky is to be matured in fresh American white oak bourbon barrels.

Cardrona Distillery & Museum

Desiree Reid is seeking to establish Cardrona Distillery & Museum in the Cardrona Valley, opposite the Cardrona ski field access road. In addition to a single malt distillery, the buildings will also house the valley’s gold mining, farming and snow skiing history.¬†Cardrona Valley is in the Otago Region, on the South Island of New Zealand.

They intend to produce single malt whiskies which are similar in style to Scotch whiskies from the Speyside region of Scotland. The distillery will source high quality traditional oak barrels for maturation, namely ex-Sherry and ex-Bourbon casks.

Their whisky will be distilled using bespoke copper pot stills being built by renowned Scottish coppersmiths, Forsyth’s of Rothes.

The distillery will also be home to a two column plus pot Jacob Carl vodka still from Germany. This will be used to make fruit liqueurs and vodka from all natural ingredients. They will also use this still to produce natural rose perfume from Damascena rose petals.

Resource consent approval was obtained in early July 2014. Building consent approval is still required before building can commence. Pending approval, Reid hopes to start building in September 2014.

Schnapp Dragon Distillery (TeKiwi)

Schnapp Dragon Distillery is located in Golden Bay, on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand.

The distillery is owned and operated by Terry Knight and his partner Rachel Raine. They established the distillery in 2006.

The distillery produces a range of spirits, including a small batch whiskey (spelt with the ‘e’): Waitui Manuka Honey Single Malt Whiskey.

Their whiskey is produced using peated malt (the peat is from the Chatham Islands) and water sourced from the Te Waikoropupu aquifer (known locally as PuPu Springs).

This unique whiskey is then aged for 4 years in ex-Manuka Honey Mead barrels. The whisky is bottled by hand at 37% alcohol by volume (74 proof), which meets the requirements for labelling as ‘whisk(e)y’ in New Zealand (some countries require at least 40% ABV).

A taste of New Zealand whisky releases

Below is a list of known whisky produced in New Zealand and subsequently made available for sale to the general public. A number of the New Zealand whiskies listed below are no longer available (outside of auction).

 

Milford 10 year old

Vintage: 1993
Bottled: 2004
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 12 year old

Vintage: 1990
Bottled: 2004
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV). 700ml bottle.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 12 year old

Vintage: 1990
Bottled: 2003
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV). 750ml bottle.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 12 year old

Vintage: 1990
Bottled: October 2002
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV). 1000ml bottle.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 15 year old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: 2004
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 18 year old

Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 20 year old

Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Milford 21 year old Cask Strength

Limited Edition 400 bottles.
Bottled at 49.7% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Prestons Single Wood Blended Whisky

Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
White Oak Cask.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Prestons Double Wood 8 year old Deluxe Blend Whisky

Bottled at 44% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged in American white oak barrels (6 years) & ex-New Zealand wine French oak barriques (2 years).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

The New Zealand Whisky Collection – Double Wood 10 Year Old

Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged initially in American white oak barrels for 6 years, then maturation is finished in French oak ex-Pinot Noir (wine) barrels for 4 years.
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

1988 Cask Strength 20 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: 2009
Bottled at 49.7% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged in American white oak.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

1988 Cask Strength 23 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 49.7% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

The New Zealand Whisky Collection – 1988 Cask 72 (23 Year Old)

Bottled at 56.4% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

1989 Cask Strength 19 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: 2008
Bottled at 49.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged in American white oak.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

1989 Cask Strength 22 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 49.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

1990 Cask Strength 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: 2008
Bottled at 58.4% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged in American white oak.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

1990 Cask Strength 21 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 58.4% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

The New Zealand Whisky Collection – 1990 Cask 90 (21 Year Old)

Bottled at 61.7% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

1993 Cask Strength 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: 2009
Bottled at 54.3% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged in American white oak.
Willowbank Distillery.

 

1993 Cask Strength 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 54.3% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

The New Zealand Whisky Collection – 1993 Cask 21 (18 Year Old)

Bottled at 51.9% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

New Zealand’s 1987 – 24 Year Old – Touch Pause Engage

Cask strength, bottled at 50.4% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Bottled to commemorate the first Rugby World Cup, which was held in 1987.
Named for the old referee scrum commands: Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage.
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

Water of Leith Blended Whisky

Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged for 10 years in oak casks.
Blend of 70% Milford Single Malt Whisky (stock from Willowbank Distillery) and 30% grain whisky (source unknown).
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

Dunedin Distillery Double Wood 8 Year Old

Bottled at 44% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Aged for six years in American oak initially and then finishing maturation for two years in French oak ex-Pinot Noir (wine) casks.
Independent bottler: The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.

 

Cadenhead’s Lammerlaw 10 Years Old

Bottled: September 2009
Bottled at 46.8% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Cadenhead’s World Whiskies – Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: March 2003
Bottled at 48.2% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Single cask, aged in bourbon hogshead. Limited to 222 bottles.
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Cadenhead’s Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 48.9% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Cadenhead’s Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 50.8% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Cadenhead’s World Whiskies – Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: October 2003
Bottled at 48.6% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Single cask, aged in bourbon barrel. Limited to 228 bottles.
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection World Whiskies – Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: June 2003
Bottled at 48.2% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Single cask, aged in bourbon barrel. Limited to 240 bottles.
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection World Whiskies – Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled: September 2000
Bottled at 49.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Single cask, aged in bourbon barrel. Limited to 240 bottles.
Independent bottler: William Cadenhead Limited (Edinburgh, Scotland).

 

Lammerlaw 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank distillery.

 

Lammerlaw 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank Distillery.

 

Lammerlaw 12 Year Old Sherry Single Malt Whisky

There is limited information available about this whisky.
Willowbank distillery.

 

Lammerlaw 12 Year Old Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 50.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank distillery.

 

Lammerlaw 19 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Willowbank distillery.

 

The Coaster Single Malt Whiskey

Spelt ‘whiskey’ rather than ‘whisky’.
Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
The distillery uses driftwood and seaweed fuel to scorch the malted barley and char the oak used for this whiskey.
Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Southern Distilleries Ltd.

 

Old Hokonui Blended Malt Whiskey

Spelt ‘whiskey’ rather than ‘whisky’.
Old Hokonui Whiskey is produced to a McRae family recipe dating back to 1895. The original hand written letter is held by the Hokonui Moonshine Museum in Gore, New Zealand.
Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Southern Distilleries Ltd.

 

The MacKenzie Blended Malt Whiskey

Spelt ‘whiskey’ rather than ‘whisky’.
A blend of grain and malt whiskeys. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Southern Distilleries Ltd.

 

Thomson Whisky 8 Year Old Blended Whisky

Blended whisky. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Independent bottler: Thomson Whisky New Zealand.

 

Thomson Whisky 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Single malt whisky. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: Thomson Whisky New Zealand.

 

Thomson Whisky 11 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Single malt whisky. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Aged in a single ex-bourbon barrel. Limited to 263 bottles.
Bottled at 43% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: Thomson Whisky New Zealand.

 

Thomson Whisky 17 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Single malt whisky. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Aged in a single ex-bourbon barrel. Limited to 242 bottles.
Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: Thomson Whisky New Zealand.

 

Thomson Whisky 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Single malt whisky. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Aged in a single ex-bourbon barrel. Limited to 197 bottles.
Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: Thomson Whisky New Zealand.

 

Thomson Whisky 18 year Old Single Cask Whisky

Single malt whisky. Non chill-filtered and no colours added.
Aged in single ex-bourbon barrels. Limited to bottlings from 3 single casks.
Bottled at 46% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Whisky stock from Willowbank Distillery.
Independent bottler: Thomson Whisky New Zealand.

 

Fitzpatrick 13 year old Kaiapoi Single Malt Whisky

Limited to 2000 bottles. 500ml bottle.
Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Southern Grain Spirits New Zealand Ltd.

 

Sheperd’s Export Whisky

Blend of 5 year old malt whisky (imported) and grain spirit.
Bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).
Southern Grain Spirits New Zealand Ltd.

 

Wilson’s Blended Whisky

There is limited information available about this whisky.
Produced by the Willowbank Distillery.

 

45 South

There is limited information available about this whisky.
Bottled at 42.3% alcohol by volume (ABV). 1000ml bottle.
Produced by the Willowbank Distillery.

 


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