Whisky Review: Pōkeno Discovery Single Malt

, | March 15, 2023

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Hailing from New Zealand, Pōkeno Whisky is trying to put its country on the map for whisky drinkers who have probably never considered the island nation as a bastion for spirit production. Headed by industry veteran Matthew Johns, who has been associated with some of the largest names in the single malt whisky world, Pōkeno is a self-declared passion project aiming for quality over quantity in their quest to produce world class single malt whiskys.

This aim is present in their production process. Every step of their batch production process happens on site, from the slow fermentation, to slow spirit runs, as they take every opportunity to eke out as much flavor from the spirit as possible.

For those who are newer to whisky, “single malt” refers to the process of whisky making that uses only one strain of malted barley in its production (whenever you hear the term ‘malt’ it is referring to malted barley). Single malt is the style of the original whiskies from Scotland, and is the oldest style of whisky making.

However, Pōkeno’s final results resemble more closely that of a Japanese whisky, which are widely single malts as well. The similarity being that Pōkeno, and many of the most popular Japanese whiskies, have a final result that is incredibly smooth, with more subtle flavors then the bold peatiness that is common in scotch.

The Discovery single malt from Pōkeno is unique to the Pōkeno collection as it is aged in first fill Bourbon and Sherry casks which are then blended together after the aging process. This means that the barrels used to age the whisky were previously used to age either bourbon whiskey or sherry wine.

Pōkeno Discovery review

We review Pōkeno Discovery, a New Zealand single malt aged in bourbon and Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. (image via Impex)

Tasting Notes: Pōkeno Discovery Single Malt

Vital Stats:  Mash Bill: 100% malted barley. 43% ABV. Aged in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez Bourbon and Sherry Casks.

Appearance: Mahogany.

Nose: The aroma has a really pleasant sweetness to it, almost like a fruit jam that’s been mixed with honey. But the citric notes are muted by the combination of a mellow, woody scent that mixes in nicely.

Palate: The flavor is incredibly smooth and is comparable to some of the best Japanese whiskies that I’ve tried. On their website one of the descriptors the brand used is “black forest gateau,” which I have to say is more accurate than anything else I could think of. There’s a light chocolate flavor, with a hint of dark cherry, and then more than anything else a really unique earthy-ness to it all (to take the ‘forest’ in ‘black forest’ literally).

Whisky Review: Pōkeno Discovery Single Malt

Final Thoughts

A really unique whisky that you should absolutely seek out. Drink this straight, with no ice, and absolutely do not mix it with anything. Simply enjoy the amazingly complex and unique flavor on its own. If Pōkeno’s goal is to put New Zealand on the map, I think this whisky does an amazing job of giving a unique flavor and experience to the region that you can’t find from any other country.

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Ryan O'Doherty

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I'm a former distiller at Jackson Hole Still Works in Wyoming. Fan of whiskey, golf, and especially whiskey and golf together.