There's still life left in NZ whisky, says Aussie
Whisky history unearthed at McCashin'sANNA PEARSON
A Tasmanian involved in the whisky trade has unearthed a piece of history at McCashin's Brewery in Stoke.
Greg Ramsay's company InterGlobal Brands bought The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company, based in Oamaru, two years ago.
Mr Ramsay was in Nelson to put flowers on his great, great, great grandfather James Little's grave and to check out McCashin's on his way to meet staff in Oamaru and Dunedin.
He unwittingly stumbled on a piece of whisky history, one of The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company's original copper stills, while hanging out with the McCashin clan.
"I was here to see the family graves and called in [to McCashin's], and someone said, ‘There's bits of an old distiller out back". Terry McCashin bought the still 15 years ago."
Mr Ramsay said it was “a revelation”, as popular myth in Dunedin suggested the still was sent to Fiji when the company's distillery, which opened in the 1960s, closed in 1993.
"The fact that it's still here is fascinating. We talked to a lot of people [in Dunedin] and they said, ‘Those bloody Aussies sent it to Fiji to make rum'. There's a lot of ill-feeling about the way multinationals basically just shut down the New Zealand whisky industry. We want to breathe life back into it,” he said.
InterGlobal Brands inherited thousands of litres of whisky with their purchase of The New Zealand Malt Whisky Company.
The company re-named the original labels, with Wilsons now called Dunedin Doublewood and 45 South now called South Island Single Malt, and is preparing its first big export to Canada.
Mr Ramsay said InterGlobal Brands had distilleries in Tasmania, where there was a “flourishing craft distilling industry”.
"We're interested in reviving the New Zealand whisky industry. We think the New Zealand brand and reputation for high quality product is already carrying our whisky sales right around the world. We think it can be once again a really big South Island industry, and a world class export for the New Zealand economy. It's a booming industry.”
Mr Ramsay said his company was interested in Nelson, “because it's obviously the home of great brewing and the first part of making whisky is making a great mash”.
He said the still at McCashin's would have been the largest whisky still in Australasia.
He phoned a man in Dunedin to tell him of the discovery, who worked in the distillery for more than 25 years, and "he wants to fly up here and cuddle the thing”.
“If they [McCashin's] ever wanted to sell it, of course we'd talk to them. Generations and generations made whisky using this still.”
It doesn't look like it will be going anywhere, however, with McCashin's planning to put the parts back together and put it to use again one day.
Dean McCashin said he and his father, Terry, bought it at an auction about 15 years ago when the plant was being sold up.
It was a “bargain”, and a rare opportunity to get something of that size and age.
"It was either going to be us or go to a scrap merchant."
- © Fairfax NZ News