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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Cardrona Distillery, New Zealand

I first heard of this new distillery while listening to WhiskyCast in December 2015. It turned out that they had just opened and it so happened that I was going to be on vacation in Queenstown, a short but very impressive drive away, over Christmas. A few emails later and I had a tour set up for December 26th, within just a few days of their official opening. The site is impressive and well designed and will also house a small museum focused on the town of Cardrona however that was still in development when I visited. The highlight was that I also got to spend some time with many of family who built it and experience their passion and excitement for what they are doing here. If their product is half as enjoyable as their hospitality (and I see no reason why not based on the excellent site and investment they have made) then we will have very nice Kiwi whisky in a few years’ time.

After the tour there was a lot to try (I had to take samples as I drove there) including their excellent Reid Single Malt Vodka, which is one of the best white spirits I have tried in a long time and a good solution to the “how do we make money for first three years of a whisky distillery” problem, the Rose Rabbit Orange Liqueur (not my thing but for sure someone’s thing) and their Single Malt new make. I have tried a lot of new make spirit but do not consider myself qualified to project on how well a new make will mature and develop but I have posted tasting notes for all of three of these Cardrona products on the website.

So if you find yourself in the Queenstown region of New Zealand and perhaps need a break from flinging yourself off a bridge with just an elastic bungy cord tied to your legs and are tired of gorging on the region’s stunning Pinot Noirs can I suggest you add this to your NZ Bucket List along (and blue cod “fush and chups”). You will thank me.

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Mount Gay Rum, Barbados

Mount Gay Rum, Barbados

OK so it’s not a whisky distillery (in fact the visitors center wasn’t even in the actual distillery) but there were plenty of similarities with whisky production. Tammy and I visited Mount Gay in Bridgetown, Barbados in October 2011. Mount Gay claims to be the oldest rum distillery in the world with deeds going back to 1703. The visitors center is in the bottling and blending plant near the harbour (handy for export). In a process similar to Scotch whisky production, the spirit is produced at their distillery in the north of the island near the sugar cane production. The by product of sugar production, molasses, is fermented and then distilled into rum. Interestingly some of the distillation is done in a continuous Coffey still, the same way that grain whisky is distilled, and some goes through a double distillation process in pot stills, ie the same as malt whisky. The different distillates are then matured in ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky (another similarity with scotch and other whisky) and then, when the maturation process is deemed complete, the two different distillates are finally blended and bottled. At the end of the short tour and video we were given samples of their three main products, Mount Gay Eclipse (43% ABV), Mount Gay Eclipse Black (50% ABV) and Mount Gay Extra Old (43% ABV – I think). While not quite what I expected (no actual distilling etc) it was still worth the visit, very generous samples at end of tour and a party atmosphere throughout, I think even the people working in the gift shop has been sampling the goods, perhaps the tradition of dramming is alive and well in Barbados. This tour was all about drinking and buying rum and we obliged on both counts and left with a bottle of Eclipse Black.

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