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The Kiwi Spirit Distillery is distilling spirits made with Kiwi spirit. What's Hot New Zealand talks to Kiwi Spirit’s founder and head distiller Terry Knight about what makes his Waitui Whiskey uniquely New Zealand.
Terry is a passionate self-taught distiller who has been pushing the limits in the world of spirits for the last twenty years. His distillery, the Kiwi Spirit Distillery in Golden Bay, is renowned for creating spirits that tell a uniquely New Zealand story. Take his Waitui Whiskey – it may be based on an old world tradition, but it doesn’t pretend to be Scotch, or Irish or bourbon, for that matter.
To start with, Waitui Whiskey is aged in the very barrels Terry uses to make his mānuka honey mead. Scotch whisky, by comparison, is aged in barrels formerly used for making sherry or bourbon.
“The Scots believe that whisky was invented in 1494 by a man called John Cor, but we know the monks came back from the Middle East around the year 500 with the art of distillation,” Terry says. “Really, I think that in that 1000-year gap, they must have put their grain into a still. They had honey mead barrels, and that’s what we’ve used, going back to those basic roots of whisky.”
The barley comes from South Canterbury, and the barrels Terry uses are made of Bulgarian oak – he started using them years ago and found they produced a deep profile far beyond what he could get from American or French oaks.
“The Bulgarian oak imparts Waitui with a deep, clean oak taste, and the honey element in the barrels adds to the delicate rounded experience. It’s what I’d call a gentle whiskey. Very easy to drink,” he says. “I have it neat with a drop of water in the winter, and in the summer it’s beautiful over ice as a sipping drink.”
Waitui Whiskey really is its own style – a true single malt produced from start to finish at the Kiwi Spirit Distillery and aged for eight years in mānuka honey mead barrels.
“There’s a lot of people who think you need to copy Scotland,” Terry says. “But New Zealand has some really good producers, and the New Zealand whiskey industry is really going from strength to strength.”
Waitui Whiskey embodies the developing whiskey culture in New Zealand. It’s a unique, proudly New Zealand whiskey hand-crafted with passion, an exquisite drop.