In 1997, the last whisky distillery in New Zealand was closed down, and the hundreds of barrels of Cask Strength whisky auctioned off or mothballed. In 2010, we bought the last 80,000 litres in 443 barrels from what had previously 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 southern-most distillery.We hope to start distilling again in the future, and are looking forward to seeing the industry flourish around the country yet again.
Whisky distilling in New Zealand was born with the arrival of Scottish settlers in the 1830s. Many Scots settled in the Otago region and the industry flourished here until the 1870s, when onerous government regulations effectively shut it down.
A distilling industry gradually re-emerged in the 1950s and in 1974, the Baker family opened the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin, producing such popular whiskies as Wilsons and 45 South.
The world’s largest distiller, Seagrams of Canada, bought Willowbank in the 1980s. The distillery thrived under Seagrams and its Single Malt, Lammerlaw (named after a nearby mountain range), was highly regarded. But in 1997, Seagrams sold Willowbank to Australian brewer Fosters, only for Fosters to mothball operations and send the stills to Fiji for making rum.