Cardrona Distillery

The distillery s founder Desiree Whitaker got bitten by the whisky bug in early 2011. This led to two years of travelling all over the world learning about the art of whisky making, including spending time with the late Dave Pickerell, the former head distiller at Maker’s Mark.

On returning to her family farm in 2013 and decided that in order to pursue her dream of making world class New Zealand whisky she would have to sell the farm in order to fund the project and the farm was indeed sold in the May of that year.

It wasn’t long before the site of the distillery was found at Cardrona in the Otago region of the South Island. The distillery has five stills, Roaring Meg (2000ltr) & Gentle Annie (1300ltr), which are a pair of copper pot still made at Forsyth’s. JC1 and 2, which are 7.5m Jacob Carl continuous column stills and finally Pretty Betty, their 600ltr copper gin still. In October 2015 the first spirit flowed from the still and was filled into cask The inaugural bottling took place on the third anniversary of the distillery in November 2018.

Since that first release, the distillery has continued to release single cask bottlings. The first mainstream released 3 year old was called ‘Just Hatched’, followed by ‘Growing Wings’ at 5 years of age, and ‘Full Fight’ at 7 years of age. They have also created what they have termed the ‘Cardrona Solera’. This isn’t a traditional Spanish sherry solera but something a little bit different, as head distiller, Sarah Elsom explained to me.

"It is a refreshingly simple programme. A 500L Sherry butt (minimum of 3years old) is selected by Desiree based on taste. That butt is dumped (air pumped, directly from the barrel) into our Solera vessel. Five bourbon barrels (200L barrels) are also selected by taste (always a minimum of 3years in oak). Four are dumped into the Solera, the decision to add the fifth is made based on taste. Will the influence of Sherry be lost or is it holding up? The vessel is then rummaged, left to allow marriage of flavour and bottled. Cask strength, to 375ml bottles. The size of the bottling run is equal to just half of the volume in the tank, after select barrels have been dumped. This appeals to that romantic notion that a small amount of the very first barrel to be dumped, is present in the last bottle to be filled, from your living solera. Consistency in quality and flavour is achieved.

The Just Hatched range celebrates a milestone and chapter in Cardrona Distillery's maturation journey. This is the motivation and justification for cask strength fills. At 5 years in barrel the entire volume remaining in the Solera tank will be bottled down and we will begin a new, 5 year solera programme. The 3year, will never be repeated. The same process will occur at year 8. At year 10; our signature single malt whisky will be launched, and all younger expressions will cease. They provide a glimpse at a moment in time.

So, it's not a solera system in the same way that you would find in the production of Sherry, where casks are layered in racks above each other, but it is a system in which the first cask to be dumped in the solera vessel will always have some remaining in there until we finished all of our bottlings of the 3 year old ‘Just hatched’ solera."

Since that first release, the distillery has gone from strength to strength winning awards not only for its whisky but for its single malt vodka as well.
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