facebook twitter
elicit still NZ

The History of New Zealand Whisky

Distilling in New Zealand goes back to the earliest Scottish settlers in 1838, and the distilling industry thrived around New Zealand, and particularly in the Dunedin and surrounding Otago region right through until the 1870s, when government influence saw many close down.

 

The Willowbank Distillery was opened by the Baker family in 1974 after approaches to the New Zealand government allowed more favourable regulations. The Bakers commenced distilling whiskies and marketed blends including Wilsons and 45 South.

Oamaru Barrel Room

The large Canadian multi-national Seagrams improved the still and processes after purchasing the distillery in the 1980's, marketing the Single Malts as Lammerlaw, named after a nearby mountain range, the source of the pure water from which the whisky was created.

Production ceased in 1997 as Seagrams rationalised their world wide business and the business was sold to Fosters who mothballed the company in 2000, and sent the silent stills to Fiji to make rum!

The New Zealand whisky company purchased the last 600 barrels of mainly Lammerlaw malt and the whisky has been maturing in the towering seaside bondstore in Oamaru's famous heritage precinct ever since.

barrel room - tasting

The company has recently released the oldest whisky ever matured in New Zealand, the 24year old '1987 Touch Pause Engage' Cask Strength Single Malt designed to commemorate New Zealand's greatest sporting triumph.

New Zealand Whisky or New Zealand Whiskey?

The inclusion or exclusion of "e" from the spelling of whiks(e)y, these days, is purely geographic. Generally speaking, the spelling "whiskey" is used for whiskies that have been distilled in Ireland or the United Sates of America. While the spelling "Whisky" tends to be used in Scotland, Wales, Canada, Australia, and Japan (and perhaps anywhere outside of the USA or Ireland that produces whiksy).

As the first whisky makers in New Zealand were those that immigrated from Scotland, determined to match the finest single malts they had known in their home land, it is clear to see why we adopted the scottish version of the spelling, "whisky".

Some say that, originally, Irish disitllers wanted a way to distinguish their spirit from the Scots', so added the "e" to the spelling. At this time, Ireland exported large amounts of whiskey to America, therefor, those in the US continued the "Whiskey" spelling tradition.