High quality process based on tradition

Cardrona Distillery

Cardrona Distillery make their whisky using the highest standards of distillation. They have carefully thought through every detail, from the grind of their mill and size of their mash tun, to the temperature of the fresh alpine water used. Each of these details, while small in their own right, add up to create the final character of Cardrona’s artisan whiskies. 

Cardrona’s purpose-built still house designed by architects Sarah Scott and Jennie Nelson was built in 2015 and formally opened in 2016 by Richard Forsyth Snr of Rothes, Scotland. It houses five copper stills: a pair of Forsyth copper pot stills: 2,000 litres and 1,300 litres; 7.5m Jacob Carl continuous column still; 7.5m Jacob Carl finishing still; and a 600 litre copper gin still.

Cardrona Distillery New Zealand Single Malt Whisky
Cardrona Distillery New Zealand Single Malt Whisky

The best quality chosen by hand

Cardrona’s Ingredients

Cardrona Distillery designed its craft process based on traditional single malts, starting from scratch with malted barley to create the best artisan whisky. And every aspect of Cardrona’s whiskies is top quality. 

Their pure alpine water is sourced from Mount Cardrona, drawn from Alvin’s Well which is located right next to Cardrona Distillery. 

They use a variety of barley called Laurette, one of the few varieties of distillers’ barley tested and approved by the Institute of Brewers and Distillers. 

The yeast used in fermentation, Pinnacle, was hand-selected by Whisky Maker Desiree Whitaker for the distinct flavour profile it creates. 

And the oak casks used to mature Cardona’s whiskies are hand-picked from Spain and America.

Meet the whisky maker

Desiree Whitaker

The Cardrona Distillery team is led by New Zealand craftswoman Desiree Whitaker (née Reid). 

In early 2011, Desiree started exploring distilling and making the best whiskies and spirits. She travelled around the world for two and a half years, learning from many of the world’s masters, including the late Dave Pickerell, former head of Maker’s Mark. Her studies took her back to Scotland and through the United States many times, to learn technical know-how to build Cardrona Distillery.

In May 2013, Desiree sold her farm to move to Wanaka, and found the perfect site for a distillery at Cardrona. On 23 October 2015, spirit flowed from the new stils for the first time and on 5 November, the first single cask of whisky was laid down to mature.

Cardrona Distillery New Zealand Single Malt Whisky
Cardrona Distillery New Zealand Single Malt Whisky

Looking after nature

Caring for New Zealand

Cardrona's draff (spent grain) is delivered to the deer of the valley's farms. This fibre rich food is seasonally supplemented by pot ale from one of their stills, Roaring Meg. When not being fed to local livestock; pot ale can be spread like a fertiliser, providing nutrients to aid pasture growth.

Water used to cool the hot wort drawn from the mash tun picks up heat energy which is collected as the warm water exits a heat exchanger. It is directed back to the hot liquor tanks to become second and third waters, terms given to the successive washing of the malt with hot water to extract sugar.

Cardrona Distillery uses its own bore water supply to run the condensers. The many litres of water required to condense vapour to liquid distillate fluctuates with changing groundwater temperatures. On reaching a set temperature, the warmer water exiting shell and tube condensers is directed to an underfloor heating system. It is then sent down the hill to a cooling tank where it cools naturally before returning to the Cardrona River.