Winter is the perfect time to enjoy rich, smoky and spicy whiskies that seem to warm you from the inside out.
You needn’t look to Scotland, Ireland or the USA for a decent whisky/ey. With some of the best barley in the world, and the purest water, New Zealand’s climate is ideally suited for malt whisky production – and we’ve had a fascinating history of whisky distilling, dating back to the 1830’s with the arrival of Scottish settlers to Otago. NZ’s
early whisky industry posed such a threat to OG distillers that Scottish banks convinced the government to OUTLAW local distilling – shutting (legal) whisky production in Aotearoa down from the 1870s and remaining all-but forgotten for a century.
Willowbank Distillery was largely responsible for the resurgence of Kiwi whisky culture in the 1970s, until it was sold to Fosters, who closed the distillery in 1997. Fosters auctioned off and mothballed hundreds of barrels of cask strength whisky – 80,000 litres of which was purchased by The New Zealand Whisky Co in 2010. Today,
homegrown whisky is more popular than ever before, and you can still get your hands on some ‘rescued’ 1987 Willowbank whisky… for a pretty price, of course. Taking out the Silver Medal in the New Zealand Whisk[e]y Awards 2022, The Otago 30 Year Old makes NZ the fourth country EVER to release a 30-year-old single malt, after Scotland, Ireland and Japan. While a 330ml bottle will set you back $600.00, it promises syrupy and silky flavours of rich malt, divine fruit and a buttery mouth-feel.
Looking for a locally-distilled dram? Here are our top three Kiwi whisky picks!
The Oamaruvian The New Zealand Whisky Co
When The New Zealand Whisky Co decanted 200+ barrels of Dunedin distilled single grain whisky out of American bourbon barrels and into French oak NZ wine barrels, the Dunedin Double-Wood was born. Eight years on, The Oamaruvian has become a true crowd-pleaser.
Nose: Bold port-soaked raisins, dark cherries, cloves and stone fruits
Taste: A vibrant mix of dried cherries and strawberries with almonds and nutmeg
ABV: Cask Strength 58.4%
Age: 18 Years
Barrel: American Oak, Ex-Bourbon. French Oak, Ex-Red Wine.
Lammermoor Whisky – Special Reserve Lammermoor Distillery
Proudly claiming to have been distilling – illegally – since 1863, Lammermoor offers a Special Reserve single malt aged in locally sourced French Oak Pinot Barrels. Their whisky begins with natural spring water sourced directly from Lammermoor Station, and features home-grown organic barley.
Nose: Hints of sweet caramel and toffee in a lightly peaty fruity surround
Taste: Smooth and sweet with hints of caramels building to a fruity lightly peated malt
Barrel: French Oak, Ex-Pinot
1919 Distilling Kirikiriroa Release 1919 Distilling
Kirikiriroa is 1919 Distilling’s first whisky release – gaining Bronze in the 2020 New Zealand Spirits Awards and Gold in the 2021 Drammys. Micro-Batch release offers full-bodied flavour and velvety smoothness with a finish that’s viscous and balanced.
Nose: Oak, jam, raisins, caramelised fig and ripe stone fruit
Taste: Vanilla, toasted oak, chocolate, cinnamon and baked berries
Cask: Red Wine