New Zealand might not be the first place that comes to mind when sourcing great single malt whisky, but thanks to Scottish settlers in the 1830s a whisky tradition was born in a place you’d least expect. Beginning this month, thanks to importer Anchor Distilling Company, the award-winning New Zealand Whisky Collection, comprised of the oldest and rarest whiskies produced in the Southern Hemisphere, will be available in the U.S.
Critically acclaimed by the likes of Jim Murray and Charles Maclean, the New Zealand Whisky Collection features expressions produced between 1987 and 1994 at the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand. In 2010, New Zealand Whisky Collection founder Greg Ramsay discovered and purchased the last 443 barrels of cask strength whiskies at the distillery, which had been mothballed at the end of the 20th century; Ramsay saw the potential for the complex range of flavors among the quietly maturing barrels. Today, this extensive stock of old and rare whiskies is continuing to mature in a seaside bondstore in Oamaru, on the eastern coast of New Zealand.
Distilled using the finest local barleys and snowmelt from the Southern Alps, the single malt whiskies in the New Zealand Whisky Collection, which reflect the last remaining stock of what was once the world’s southern-most distillery, are produced using traditional Scottish methods of copper pot stills.
Dunedin DoubleCask 16 Year Old (40% ABV; $85 SRP, 375ml)
Silver Medal 2015 and Gold Medal 2014 – Wizards of Whisky Awards
Best Blend Au/NZ, World Whisky Awards 2013
Silver Medal, San Francisco Spirit Awards 2013
A blend of 70% single malt and 30% grain whisky (made from unmalted barley in the Willowbank Distillery). After aging in American Oak for 6 years, transferred to French Oak ex-New Zealand red wine casks for 12 Years, resulting in a stunning ruby color and distinctive layers of aromatic dried fruit and spices.
High Wheeler 21 Year Old Single Grain (43% ABV; $95 SRP, 375ml)
Also a blend of 70% single malt and 30% grain whisky (made from unmalted barley in the Willowbank Distillery), this expression is aged in American Oak, ex-bourbon for 21 years, which gives an elegant balance of baked pear and vanilla with gentle floral notes.
Oamaruvian 16 Year Old Cask Strength DoubleCask (58.4% ABV; $115 SRP, 375ml)
Gold Medal, The Wizards of Whisky Awards, 2015
The best casks are hand-picked for these unique single cask bottlings. A vibrant taste of dried fruits, including cherries and strawberries, intertwined with almonds and nutmeg.
South Island 25 Year Old Single Malt (40% ABV; $230 SRP, 375ml)
95/100 The Whisky Bible 2014 “Liquid Gold”
New World Whisky of the Year, Golden Cask Awards 2013
Double Gold, San Francisco Spirit Awards 2013
Best AU/NZ Aged Single Malt, World Whisky Awards 2013
Distilled in traditional copper pot stills using New Zealand grown malt barley. Golden fruits, vanilla and a light peat influence. With this expression, New Zealand reached a milestone by becoming only the fifth country to release a 25-year-old single malt.
“In Anchor’s quest to build a portfolio of the world’s most interesting whiskies, we are thrilled to bring the highly sought-after New Zealand Whisky Collection to the U.S.,” says Dennis Carr, president of Anchor Distilling Company. “As is proven by the likes of Taiwan’s award-winning Kavalan and Japan’s Nikka Whisky Company, there is a world of brands that are changing what defines great single malt whiskies. This collection reveals how New Zealand’s provenance impacts the production of single malts.”