Cardrona is an exciting distillery producing single malt gin, vodka, liqueurs and whisky, based in New Zealand’s southern Alps.
The family-owned and operated distillery, named after Mount Cardrona, is the brainchild of Desiree Whitaker who learned her craft from some of the world’s most prominent whisky producers.
In May 2013, Whitaker used the capital from the sale of her farming business to buy the Cardrona Valley site. After acquiring a parcel of farmland, the family set about building a humble distillery with a 2,000 litre capacity. On 23rd October 2015, spirit flowed from the stills for the first time. The first casks were laid down in November.
Due to the infancy of the New Zealand spirits industry, the distillery currently imports grain from the UK. Plans are afoot to change this to a domestic maltster in the coming years. High-quality oak casks are selected from Spain, America and Central Otago.
Five copper stills reside in the Cardrona still house: a pair of Forsyth copper pot stills (2,000-litre and 1,300 litre) sit alongside a Jacob Carl continuous column still, Jacob Carl finishing still (both 7.5m litres) and a 600-litre copper gin still. The wash still (2,000 litres) is short and squat. It has a big boiler bulb and the lyne arm is downward facing, increasing the opportunity for reflux and copper interaction.
The all-female production team currently makes one barrel of whisky per day – at full capacity, they could produce four times this amount. Fermentation times are at least 70 hours before the first charge is drawn. The resulting profile is character-rich and sweet.
Cardrona launched its first whisky – a three-year old called Just Hatched – in 2020. Whitaker had initially intended for the inaugural release to be a 10 Year Old, but a trip to Islay and encouragement from seasoned whisky experts forced her hand. The last bottles of the inaugural whisky were released in November 2020. Cardrona’s five-year-old single malt, Growing Wings, launched in May 2021.
The distillery is surrounded by 2,000 ancient perfumery roses. Whitaker had initially wanted to go into the perfumery business when she sold her farm but changed tack when researching the alcohol component in perfumes. This passion hasn’t died away – and the site is something to behold in the winter months when the roses are in bloom.