The NZ Whisky Collection was established in 2010 but its history and heritage date back to Otago’s Scottish early settlers who brought a love of whisky and distilling to their new home. The industry flourished there until the 1870s, when onerous government regulations effectively shut it down.
A distilling industry gradually re-emerged in the 1950s, and in 1974 the Baker family opened the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin, producing such popular whiskies as Wilsons and 45 South.
Seagrams of Canada, bought Willowbank in the 1980s. The distillery thrived under Seagrams, and its single malt, Lammerlaw (named after a nearby mountain range), was highly regarded. In 1997, Seagrams sold Willowbank to Australian brewer Fosters, only for Fosters to mothball operations and send the stills to Fiji for rum production.
The hundreds of barrels of Cask Strength whisky were either auctioned off or put in storage in 2009. In 2010, a group bought the last 80,000 litres in 443 barrels from what had previously been stored in an old airplane hangar. The whisky now resides in the towering seaside bonds store in Oamaru. These are exceptionally rare drams from what was once the world’s southern-most distillery.
The New Zealand Whisky Collection was formed to bottle and release this valuable whisky. They hope to start distilling again in the future, and are looking forward to seeing the industry flourish around the country yet again.
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350 ml, 43.0% abv, New ZealandYears ago, in the Willowbank distillery in Dunedin, a batch of whisky was made in the distillery’s pot-stills using un-malted barley. This “single grain whisky” was then blended with 70% of their single malt, and placed into American Oak, ex-bourbon barrels. Twenty-one years later, carefully selected casks have been bottled as “High Wheeler”.
*350 ml bottle"High Wheeler has a light presence on the tongue and tastes of pears in the main, accented by a little oakiness and a little smokiness. The finish left a lingering trace of salt and smoke"
500 ml, 40.0% abv, New ZealandDunedin DoubleWood 16 year old is a master blend of 70% single malt, and 30% premium grain whisky produced from un-malted barley in the Willowbank Distillery. Aged for 6 years in American Bourbon barrels, before finishing for 10 in French Oak NZ wine barrels, giving ruby colour, depth of character and long-lasting, rich flavours. "A superb blended whisky from the now demolished Willowbank distillery in New Zealand, with complex fruit and oak flavours. The Dunedin is a really great whisky, complex and rich"
350 ml, 40.0% abv, New ZealandThe latest flagship release of the South Island Single Malt. Continuing the tradition of the multi-award-winning 18, 21, and 23 year old expressions, the new 25 year old will be sure to please. Made from 100% malted New Zealand barley in the Willowbank distillery, Dunedin. This whisky has been aging in American Oak, Ex-Bourbon barrels for 25 years.
*350 ml bottle"It is light yet punchy. Smoke is more present on the palate but its wonderful green apples and vanilla that combine amazingly well with a touch of spice. A very complex and well-balanced palate"