New Zealand craft spirits distiller Thomson Whisky has struck gold – three times – winning triple gold medals at last month’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2016.
The hat trick includes a win for the local whisky maker’s newly released South Island Peat Whisky, made from 100 percent New Zealand grown malted barley and smoked with peat from the South Island of New Zealand. Gaining recognition globally as a distillery to watch, Thomson Whisky lined up alongside more than 1,700 entries this year, the largest competition in the event’s 16 year history.
The two other winning whiskies included Thomson Whisky’s unique and handmade Manuka smoked whisky – aptly named Manuka Smoke – and the blended Two Tone Release.
The whisky categories are highly competitive, fought by international whisky producers from traditional Scottish distilleries as well as New World producers from respected markets including Japan, United States and Tasmania. Thomson Whisky is a very small producer in comparison, but the craftsmanship and flavours from this New World distiller have resonated with the judges.
Inside Thomson Whisky’s distillery in Riverhead, north-west of Auckland city is where the magic happens. It is here that the flavours are coaxed out from Canterbury malted barley and peat, which is mashed, distilled, matured and blended using traditional processes.
“Using uniquely New Zealand ingredients is a hallmark of our style. Respecting the natural process is paramount and we’re lucky to have quality local ingredients such as 100% New Zealand grown malted barley which gives the whisky a progressive, modern twist,” says Thomson’s head distiller Mathew Thomson.
Thomson’s Manuka Smoke Whisky is created using barley smoked with native Manuka wood and distilled through a hand-beaten copper pot still. On the palate are flavours of cinnamon, clove, and Manuka oil. The South Island Peat Whisky is also created from New Zealand grown malted barley but is smoked with Peat from the mainland, creating a palate with notes of smoke and sweet vanillins.
Small batch whisky distilling is an industry still in its infancy in New Zealand. However, it is predicted to grow, hot on the heels of the craft beer movement which is now sweeping the country. “New Zealand producers are capable of making diverse whisky styles,” says Mat. “We are doing what we love – making artisan whisky for the modern enthusiast, but using traditional methods. With medals from prestigious spirits competitions, we hope to help put contemporary New Zealand whisky on the map.”