If Canada likes whisky, distillery could be back

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) recently purchased a large order of two of the New...
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) recently purchased a large order of two of the New Zealand Whisky Company's whiskies. Photo supplied
The successful Canadian launch of Dunedin-distilled whisky may provide the income needed to resume distilling in the city.

The New Zealand Whisky Company has started looking for suitable distillery sites and was optimistic international sales would spur development.

Chief executive Greg Ramsay recently returned to his home in Tasmania after spending two weeks launching the New Zealand Whisky Company range in Ontario.

The trip had been a great success, with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) ordering a large consignment of two New Zealand whiskies, the 18-year-old South Island Single Malt and the Dunedin DoubleWood, he said.

If the LCBO put in a second order it would make distilling in Dunedin viable again, Mr Ramsay said. The company had examined ''several'' sites in Dunedin.

Mr Ramsay wanted to set up the distillery in one of Dunedin's ''nice old buildings''. All that was required was space for equipment and storage and a good loading area.

One potential site was the former social welfare office on Princes St.

The distillery could be a tourist attraction, showing off the history of New Zealand whisky and the distilling process, he said.

Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said any attraction was welcome as it could convince people to stay longer and do more in the city.

''Whisky is a great fit for Dunedin.''

Mr Saxton said the Wilson's Whisky distillery at Willowbank was a popular attraction for tourists before it closed.

The LCBO is one of the world's largest single purchasers of beverage alcohol products.

''We can't wait for Canada's verdict on these delicious drams,'' Mr Ramsay said.

''In fact, the fate of a mothballed New Zealand industry, that was once so well-nurtured in Canadian care, could once again sit with the people of Ontario.''

Canadian company Seagrams - once the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world - used to own the Willowbank distillery where the DoubleWood was made.

In the late 1990s, Seagrams sold the distillery to Australian brewer Fosters, which closed it. The remaining stock of 443 barrels, or 75,000 litres of whisky, was left to mature. The whisky was bought by the New Zealand Whisky Company two years ago.

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