Five years since breaking ground on its new, state-of-the-art distillery, the team at Pōkeno Whisky Company recently introduced their first New Zealand single malts.
Founder Matt Johns calls Pōkeno his passion project.
After 25 years in the global whisky industry, together with his wife Celine, he set out to create what he feels are some of the world’s finest single malts using only New Zealand ingredients, and by doing so, he said he wanted to put New Zealand on the map as a whisky-producing nation.
In a statement from the distiller, they noted that the first step was to find a location for the distillery … that led them to just south of New Zealand’s Bombay Hills.
“For us as craft distillers, Pōkeno is an absolute hidden treasure,” Johns said. “Not only do we have the privilege of using the pure spring water that has been drawn over centuries from the surrounding volcanic hills, these same hills conspire with the subtropical climate to create conditions that accelerate the spirit’s maturation and flavor development in the barrel.”
Johns said that he and Head Distiller Rohan McGowan enjoy the freedom to ferment for longer, distill more slowly and experiment to extract the maximum body and flavor from the barley, which they source from three family-owned farms in the South Island.
“As an independent distillery, and a small team passionate about our craft, we’re entirely driven by quality, not volume; on doing things our way, not the easy way. With no compromise on any part of the process,” Johns said.
Over the last few years, he noted, there’s been a growing appreciation of the role that fermentation and distillation plays in the development of body and flavor before the spirit is barrelled.
“With our focus on quality over volume, we’re able to ferment for a minimum of 72 hours and then double distill incredibly slowly, maximizing copper contact through the process to refine our profile and then ensure that only the purest spirit is taken for maturation,” he explained.
Eighty percent of Pōkeno’s single malt is matured in first-fill casks, leaving the barrel to enhance rather than dominate the flavor profile of each whisky:
- Pōkeno Origin is fully matured in first-fill bourbon casks.
- Pōkeno Discovery is a combination of spirit aged in first-fill bourbon, Oloroso and PX Sherry casks, married together in cask for a final period of maturation.
- Pōkeno Revelation is fully-aged in first-fill bourbon and New Zealand red wine casks, married together in cask for a final period of maturation.
The Pōkeno range of single malts are available online directly from the distillery, in a selection of independent whisky specialist stores, and in more than 120 Liquorland stores throughout New Zealand.
The whisky range will be available internationally starting in late 2022, with initial launches in the UK, France, Germany, the U.S. and Australia.
Gary Carter has been at the helm of metro newspapers, magazines, and television news programs as well as a radio host and marketing manager. He is a writer/editor/photographer/designer by trade, with more than 30 years experience in the publishing and marketing field. Gary enjoys working to build something great, whether...