Update: I’ve added a bonus fourth review, their newly release 25yo!
The New Zealand Whisky Company may not be that well known in the UK, but they’re keen to get to know us!
In 1997 the Willowbank Distillery on New Zealand’s South Island – the last whisky distillery in New Zealand – was closed down and its hundreds of filled casks were auctioned off or mothballed. In 2010, The New Zealand Whisky Company bought the last 80,000 litres (443 barrels) which had until then 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 southernmost distillery.
Let’s take a look at three whiskies from the Collection…
Dunedin Doublewood 15yo – 40% abv
Info: A 15 year old blended whisky from the New Zealand Whisky Company, matured for its first 6 years in American Bourbon barrels, before finishing in French Oak NZ wine casks.
Colour: Dark amber / ruby to burnt copper.
Nose: Light and tropical with old bananas, coconuts and rich red fruits and malt, it’s really packed with flavour.
Palate: Slightly spicy at first with a rich malty fruit backdrop, packed with as much flavour on the palate as you found on the nose.
Finish: The over ripe banana flavours come through on a nice long gently warming finish. Oaky tones lasting out.
Thoughts: A dram that’s packed with gently sweet flavours, really good stuff! A touch more abv might be good, but it’s got a reasonably thick mouthfeel as it is.
Available: Master of Malt – £86.98
South Island 21yo – 40% abv
Info: Aged in American oak ex-bourbon barrels for at least 21 years. Received 95 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2014.
Colour: Light bright gold.
Nose: Lightly malty tones with rich ripe tropical fruits and a gentle woodiness along with sweet vanilla.
Palate: Nicely sweet and gentle, caramel, tropical beaches, loads of gentle flavours to explore.
Finish: Slightly refreshing, medium to long and again packed with gentle flavours. Relaxing but exciting.
Thoughts: Excellent stuff, much more straight tropical than the 15yo above but that doesn’t take away from anything, it’s a superb malt, far far too easy to drink! I can see why Jim liked this so much.
Available: Master of Malt – £116.59
New Zealand 23yo 1990 (cask 137) – 63.5% abv
Info: Single malt whisky from The New Zealand Company, matured in cask #137 for 23 years, until it was bottled in March 2013.
Colour: Full bright and clear golden.
Nose: A similar nose to above, although almost a little closed because of the very high alcohol level. It has quite a nip on the nose because it’s so strong, but with time for the spirit to open a little those now familiar ripe tropical fruit notes and gentle old oak come through.
Palate: Hugely thick on the palate and very warming, becoming hot due to the high abv. It’s sweet, tropical, and although hot it’s otherwise quite gentle with ripe fruit notes, coconut and oak.
Finish: Really long, sweet and warming. Powerful stuff.
Water: A drop of water helps open the whisky up bringing out banana notes along with polished wood and milk chocolate. It helps make it much smoother and more palatable – that’s not to say it’s at all rough, it’s just very strong and that may be too much for some palates, you don’t want to anesthetize your tongue.
Thoughts: A powerful and excellent dram. The 63.5% abv is interesting, that’s the general cask filling strength for new make spirit used by most distilleries, so either there has been no evaporation at all over the 23 years or it was filled at a much higher strength originally and has been taken down to this exact figure (unless coincidentally it’s reduced naturally over the years to this strength). It’s three years older than the 21yo, and only three pounds more expensive, so why wouldn’t you buy this!
Available: Master of Malt – £119.21
New Zealand 25yo – 46% abv
Info: Their first bottle to be released outside of Japan and the EU. Tried at The Whisky Exchange Show, hence the shorter notes.
Nose: Lovely old and leathery, but the malt is nicely intact, old gentle ripe citrus fruits.
Palate: Thick and sweet on the palate, fantastically smooth and morish with gentle citrus fruits.
Finish: Gentle and warming, sweet with a touch of buttery spice
Thoughts: A dram to spend all evening with. Ace. The higher ABV really helps make it a more memorable and enjoyable dram.
Available: In specialist whisky shops soon, $199NZD.
Overall Thoughts: Three fairly expensive drams, but they do come from a closed distillery from the other side of the world, so we can forgive that. What you do instantly get is just what good quality they all are, what a shame the distillery was closed down. If you see these out and about, even if it’s just at shows, then grab a drop, you won’t be disappointed.
Many thanks to New Zealand Whisky for the samples.