WIZARDS OF WHISKY AUSTRALASIAN DISTILLER OF THE YEAR: THE NZ WHISKY COMPANY
This year sees New Zealand’s All Blacks defend their world rugby title -and 2015 will no doubt mark another significant step forward for the New Zealand Whisky Company.
When The All Blacks triumphed in 2011 Tasmanian Greg Ramsay, having bought up existing stocks of the old Willowbank Distillery, was making his first tentative steps in his bid to put Kiwi whisky on the map. It’s hard to believe that it’s just over three years ago since that journey started. And it’s fitting that in 2015 The New Zealand Whisky Company should pick up the award for Australasian Distiller of the Year. In the past 12 months the company has made major strides in international markets, launched new products, repackaged existing ones, and improved the quality of its offering across the board.
I should at this point declare a vested interest – as an adopted New Zealand citizen I am proud of my association with this company and have worked with Greg and his team to promote this whisky to the world. And I am delighted to see its three entries do so well in The Wizards.
But I should once again point out that I was not part of the judging panel that scored the whiskies so highly.
The big surprise for everyone this year was another fruity delight, the Oamaruvian. It was one of three gold medals the distiller picked up recently.
Interview with Tom Holder, export and brand manager, The NZ Whisky Co
Q. Please summarise 2014. what were your main achievements during the year?
Launching our 25 Year Old was the highlight of 2014. To be only the third nation outside Britain to have matured a single malt to that age, and enjoy the feedback and sales to date, is what we all go to work for. Obviously gaining LiquidGold for our South Island Single Malt in the Whisky Bible, a growing foray into Asian markets and becoming established among Australian whisky drinkers, gives us great hope going forward.
Q. How is your whisky doing?
We have enjoyed really strong sales growth, far more than we expected.
Q. Where is it selling?
Europe, Australia and New Zealand are our key markets. We opted out of a lucrative US distribution because we want to have our new-make maturing away quietly, before we tackle the expanse of the USA!
Q. What are the core brands you are focusing on?
With only 60 or so barrels of single malt remaining, we really have to ‘stretch’ out our single malt stocks. So we’re focusing on 50cl bottlings, and increasing the sales of hip flasks. We are launching more derivatives of our DoubleWood whisky this year; the ANZAC DoubleMalt (blended with Australia’s best malts) and Oamaruvian Cask Strength have already enjoyed pre-sales/orders through our sales networks, and we think they’re a lovely variation from the DoubleWood itself.
Q. Please tell me about your plans to distil and where you are with that?
We have now put down around a dozen trial batches of whisky with our production partners in Christchurch. Anthony and Douglas are emerging as two of the most talented distillers in New World Whisky, and we’re thrilled to keep developing distinctive New Zealand style and flavours through our new-make and the ensuing maturation.
Q. What are your plans for the coming months?
Celebrating BACK-TO-BACK distiller of year award with Wizards of Whisky and bowing-down to our framed wall-mounted picture of Dom Roskrow of course!!! Launching the ANZAC DoubleMalt and the Oamaruvian are going to be SO exciting because i get great satisfaction from people saying “i’ve never tasted a whisky like that before…..AND I LOVE IT….where can i buy it?”
Q. How important will the rugby World Cup and the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli be to your plans?
With our partners at Gordon & MacPhail, and our tireless brand ambassador Erik Burgess, we plan to make the RWC our big platform for promoting into the UK market. The ANZAC has been in our portfolio for three years now, and the market has a heightened awareness of their sacrifice this year, but we just have it there to pay homage to what those young men and women gave-up, to let Kiwis, Aussies and Tasmanians, to enjoy the world’s ultimate lifestyle. I hope they’d enjoy the coming together of flavours and fun that the whisky embodies.
Q. How do you feel about picking up this award?
This is a serious honour for us. We work closely with the Larks, Keith Batt and the Lawrys in Christchurch, the men and women that make southern hemisphere whisky what it is today; so to be mentioned alongside is a privilege. We’re all flying the flag for New World Whisky and hope your readers all get to find some soon!