Otago whiskies named world's best

Cellar Door manager Kay Hansen (left) and NZ Whisky Company Oamaru maturation store manager...
Cellar Door manager Kay Hansen (left) and NZ Whisky Company Oamaru maturation store manager Debbie Preston celebrate winning a top whisky award. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Two brands of whisky matured at the towering seaside bond store in Oamaru have been named as the "world's best" at the Mid-West Whisky Olympics in Michigan.

Competing against some of the best known brand-names from Scotland, Ireland and the United States, the 10-year-old Dunedin DoubleWood blended whisky and the 21-year-old South Island Single Malt whisky, both manufactured at the now defunct Willowbank distillery in Dunedin, were named the world's best blended and single malt whisky, respectively.

Production at the Willowbank distillery ceased in 1997, and its collection of whisky has been maturing in the New Zealand Whisky Company's Oamaru maturation store for the past six years, after the company bought the distillery's stockpile in 2000.

Company spokesman Greg Ramsay said the awards were a massive endorsement for New Zealand whisky.

"Getting this international recognition is really important to all of our staff in Oamaru, and supporters around New Zealand, who have always believed that the New Zealand whisky industry could be revived, and once again be a major part of the South Island economy.

"People sometimes don't believe their own produce is world-class until someone from overseas, with an accent, tells them it is. In this case, it was a large American judging panel."

The decision made by the Oamaru maturation store managers Warren and Debbie Preston to use old red wine barrels to mature the Dunedin DoubleWood whisky was now being copied, he said.

Oamaru Maturation Store manager Debbie Preston said in addition to being sold in Oamaru, the whisky was exported to Australia, the United States and the Netherlands, and had a growing reputation.

"We have really cranked up the exports, and we are just preparing an order for Canada."

Former NZ Whisky Company director John Evans, who helped organised the purchase of the whisky and who now promotes aged Willowbank whisky to cruise ships coming into Dunedin, was not surprised by the award.

The whisky produced at the Dunedin distillery had always been a high-quality product, he said.

"As Dunedin has fine barley, peat and still, pure water from local sources and a Scottish heritage, it is no surprise that the aged whiskies are first class.

"The opportunity for Dunedin businessmen is to go back to the heritage and distil more to take advantage of these accolades. The supply is running out."

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz


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