Whisky Review: Pōkeno Origin Single Malt

, | March 14, 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 whiskies.

This aim is present in their production process, with every very step happening 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 Pokeno, and many of the most popular Japanese whiskies, have a final result that is incredibly smooth, with more subtle flavors then that of the bold peatiness that is common in scotch.

The Pōkeno Origin single malt I’m reviewing here puts a twist on their subtle finish by aging the whisky in ex-bourbon casks. This means Pōkeno buys used bourbon barrels and then ages their whisky in them without any other single malt being aged in the barrels beforehand.

This process allows all of the sweet, bourbon flavor to get transferred into the spirit during the aging. This seems to be Pōkeno’s niche technique: creating high quality, subtle single malts and then adding a bit more flavor and creativity by aging them in different types of used barrels.

Pōkeno Origin review

We review Pōkeno Origin, a New Zealand single malt that’s been aged in ex-bourbon casks. (image via Impex Beverages)

Tasting Notes: Pōkeno Origin Single Malt

Vital Stats: Mash Bill: 100% malted barley. 43% ABV. Aged in ex-bourbon casks.

Appearance: light yellow, similar to a Pinot Gris.

Nose: The nose is very citrusy with hints of lemon. It’s very light in general, with zero alcohol burn on the back end. The lightness of the citrus is then slightly offset but a honey sweetness that also grounds the overall aroma with a full-bodied-ness.

Palate: The palate loses a bit of the citrus and more prominently features the honey sweetness. It’s similarly light in flavor as it is in color and on the nose. There’s a bit more alcohol bite than on the nose, but overall, it’s incredibly smooth. It does though lack an overall distinctive flavor that would make it interesting.

Whisky Review: Pōkeno Origin Single Malt

Final Thoughts

Silky smooth and pleasantly light on the palate, the Origin whisky from Pōkeno matches the distillery’s signature smooth taste, but ultimately falls a bit short on delivering something memorable. You can come for the texture and the surprisingly light flavor profile that almost resembles a sake, but you will probably leave wishing there was just a bit more excitement to the flavor profile overall.

User Review
5 (1 vote)


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.