Touch of Scot­land in the deep south

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Vis­it­ing the Cardrona Dis­tillery, you would be for­given for think­ing you had driven from New Zealand to the Scot­tish high­lands. The beau­ti­ful schist-clad build­ings are home to a pas­sion­ate team that com­bine tra­di­tional and mod­ern meth­ods to cre­ate unique craft spir­its.

Where/What is it?

Lo­cated 15 min­utes from Wanaka in the Cardrona Val­ley, the dis­tillery is a bou­tique maker of Scot­tish-style whisky and other high qual­ity spir­its, such as vodka, or­ange liqueur, and an award-win­ning gin.

The fam­ily-owned fa­cil­ity is the dream of for­mer dairy farmer De­siree Whi­taker, fi­nally open­ing in De­cem­ber 2015 after years of care­ful plan­ning.

Their prod­ucts are dis­tinc­tive in that they are all sin­gle-malt al­co­hols, made from the same base spirit.

Why go?

Though the whisky may still be age­ing in casks, the other spir­its are ready to go, and the beau­ti­ful stone build­ings alone are worth mak­ing the trip for.

The cafe is a great spot for a drink and a snack, but the tour is the real draw. We’re shown around the fa­cil­ity by dis­tiller Daniel Quinn, who gives us an easy to un­der­stand walk-through of how sin­gle-malt spir­its are made.

The process of turn­ing malted bar­ley, yeast, and wa­ter from the Cardrona Val­ley into spirit comes to life as we get to touch, smell, or taste dif­fer­ent stages of pro­duc­tion.

Two hand-beaten Forsyth’s cop­per stills from Scot­land are a func­tional tip of the hat to tra­di­tional whisky mak­ing meth­ods. An im­pres­sive Ger­man­made col­umn still is also used for vodka-mak­ing.

The tour fin­ishes with a well con­ducted tast­ing, which helps any palate get the most out of each mouth­ful. It’s great to learn more about the lo­cally sourced botan­i­cals that give the gin its dis­tinc­tive flavour. The tast­ing room is ele­gant, with painted an­i­mal skull art pieces adding splashes of colour and char­ac­ter.

The dis­tillery also pro­duces a small run of rose per­fume yearly, made from damask roses. There are plans to turn the cafe area into a mu­seum, us­ing flat screens on the walls to dis­play the his­tory of the area.

In­sider tip

The fa­mous Cardrona Bra Fence lines the drive­way to the dis­tillery, so come pre­pared with any old, worn bras and some loose change to sup­port the Breast Cancer Foun­da­tion.

On the way/near by

There are plenty of nearby ac­tiv­i­ties to make it a day trip to the val­ley, though most are best done be­fore your al­co­hol tast­ing.

Di­rectly across from the dis­tillery is the Cardrona Alpine Re­sort, a ski re­sort in win­ter and down­hill moun­tain bike park in the sum­mer.

Horse trekking and quad bike tours are avail­able from The Cardrona tour com­pany, con­ve­niently lo­cated next to the dis­tillery.

A five-minute drive up the val­ley is the his­toric Cardrona Ho­tel, es­tab­lished 1863. While it does of­fer ac­com­mo­da­tion, the ho­tel pub is also a great place for a meal and a pint.

How much?

A tour of the dis­tillery costs $25 a per­son and takes about 1 hours. If you’re plan­ning on tak­ing some spir­its home with you, pack an ex­tra $110 to $130 a bot­tle.

Best time to go

It de­pends what else you want to do in the re­gion, as gin and vodka taste just as good year round.

Visit cardronadis­ for more info. — Michael Hay­ward

The writer trav­elled cour­tesy of Lake Wanaka Tourism.


Gen­tle An­nie, one of the dis­tillery’s two cop­per stills.

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