Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Plans for whiskey distillery near Queenstown

Came across an article yesterday in The Press about Warren Preston’s plans for a $5 million boutique distillery to be built on the banks of the Kawarau River near Queenstown. It plans to be an all southern affair, with the barley grown throughout Otago and southland, distilled on site, and distributed through Preston’s Oamaru restaurant. This in turn, would allow for the development of a whiskey tourism business, offering tours, whisky appreciation and tastings. All this, of course, will take some years to develop.

This got me thinking. Does New Zealand have a whiskey tourism industry ? I know that there are a few boutique breweries around, but how many whiskey (or other spirits) distilleries are there in New Zealand. An internet search came up with a few surprises. Just down the road my home is Southern Grain Spirits, the ‘…only remaining distillery in Australasia making Gin using botanicals and original methods. Apparently tours are available Monday to Saturday between 10am and 8pm (bookings essential).

Then there’s 42 Below, distilling premium vodka and gin. First made in a Wellington garage (hence the name 42 below referring to the 42nd parallel below the equator), the company is the brainchild of Geoff Ross, who felt that pure spring water from Wellington’s Tararua ranges was the key to producing a superior vodka. He must have been onto something, with 42 Below winning metals internationally and becoming the vodka of choice at top bars throughout the United States.

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