What was that I said … New Zealand Whisky is back?? It was not that long ago that I wasn’t even sure whether New Zealand had ever manufactured whisky. But it turns out that indeed, the distillery at Dunedin on the South Island once produced both Single Malt and blended whisky. I received a press release announcing the return of New Zealand Whisky a few short months ago which told the story. Interestingly enough, there was a Canadian connection to the whisky which was distilled at New Zealand’s Willowbank Distillery. The connection was Canadian whisky giant, Seagram’s, who (not that long ago) was the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world, and the owner of the distillery in Dunedin, New Zealand. Sadly, I learned that Seagram’s sold the distillery in 1997 to an Australian brewer (Fosters) who promptly mothballed it and sent the stills within to Fiji to make rum. The closing of the Willowbank Distillery brought about a temporary end to the Whisky Industry in New Zealand.
But with the New Zealand Whisky Collection, the whisky from New Zealand is back.
According to New Zealand Whisky Collection, CEO, Greg Ramsey:
“This whisky represents an enduring link between Canada and New Zealand, as well as the potential revival of a whisky industry in the Land of the Long White Cloud.”
Fortunately, about 600 barrels of single malt and blended grain whisky remained at the defunct distillery and were left to mature, and two years ago, Mr Ramsay, a young Australian whisky enthusiast from Tasmania, bought those barrels and set about bottling the whisky as part of a plan to revive the New Zealand whisky industry. As part of that plan, he created the New Zealand Whisky Collection.
In 2011, the Dunedin Distillery DoubleWood was the first whisky launched as part of that collection. This whisky was aged in American-Oak barrels for 6 years and then finished for 4 more in North Island, French-oak, wine barrels. The whisky is a blend of 70% Single Malt whisky, and 30% premium grain whisky, bottled at 40% alcohol by volume. Fortunately (for me), I was sent some samples from the collection (see above), and over the next bunch of weeks I will share my reviews of the New Zealand Whisky Collection here on here on my website.
Until then, here are some brief tasting notes for the Dunedin Doublewood provided by the New Zealand Whisky Company:
Colour: Rich golden honey
Nose: Delicate fruit and floral notes over a delicious hint of toffee and sweet offerings.
Palate: A beautiful explosion of creamy malt and subtle vanillas up front, building across the palate revealing notes of dried fruit and soft nuts. A sweet balanced sense of alcohol leading to a big, warm finish.
Stay tuned for my reviews!
My understanding is that the New Zealand Whisky Collection is available (if not now then very soon) in Ontario through the LCBO.