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Alex Hannagan enjoys a trip with friends to the Cardrona Distillery.
It starts with our trusted taxi driver Craig, whom we hire for the day, picking us up promptly at 10.30am, to take us the 50-minute drive over the country’s highest sealed alpine pass known as the Crown Range to the one and only, family-owned and operated Cardrona Distillery.
On arrival we instantly know we are somewhere spectacular. We walk up the path lined with an abundance of lovely flaxes, leading us to a perfectly manicured lawn that lies in front of the distillery reception and Mt Cardrona is nicely snuggled into the background. The surroundings make us feel we have just stepped into a beautiful Philip Beadle piece of artwork that we are more than happy to immerse ourselves in for the best part of the day.
As we enter the superbly appointed establishment we are greeted with large smiles and welcomes before we are shown to our table in the bustling restaurant.
As we sip our yummy cocktails, talking and laughing among ourselves, locally sourced, eye-appealing small sharing plates keep arriving at our table. The food and the cocktails are sublimely in symphony and our tastebuds love every minute if it. This really is the spirit of Cardrona in its finest form.
One of the many inspiring characteristics of the Cardrona Distillery is how its cleverly crafted spirits are all connected with the surrounding land and nature.
Some of the many examples include the Growing Wings 5-year-old whisky, named in honour of the New Zealand falcon that loves to visit the distillery (if I was a falcon I would too) and the Rose Rabbit liqueurs that correspond with the rose bushes and rabbits that call Cardrona home. The elderflower for one of these liqueurs is even hand-picked locally.
To make our experience even more authentic, the whisky is drawn by an old-fashioned copper dog for us to sample.
On cloud nine, we gather for some group photos, say our thank-yous and sadly bid goodbye. As we walk back down the path that took us up to this awe-inspiring place, my friend Liz turns to me and says: "how good was that?". I just say one word back — wow.