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Pōkeno Whisky Launches With Trio Of Bold, Creative New Zealand Single Malts

Five years since the first foundations were placed for its state-of-the-art distillery, we’re delighted to have the honour of sharing one of NZ’s best-kept secrets today by introducing the first New Zealand single malts from the Pōkeno Whisky Company.

Pōkeno is what founder Matt Johns calls his passion project. With over 25 years’ experience in the global whisky industry behind him, he, together with his wife Celine, set out with a vision to achieve two things: to create some of the world’s finest single malts using only New Zealand ingredients; and in doing so, to put New Zealand on the map as a whisky-producing nation.

The first step was to find a location for the distillery, which led them to just south of the Bombay Hills.

“For us as craft distillers, Pōkeno is an absolute hidden treasure. 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 sub-tropical climate to create conditions that accelerate the spirit’s maturation and flavour development in the barrel,” says Matt.

“In Pōkeno, the angels don’t like to wait for their share!”

The distillery stands comparison to some of the best and most established around the world. But without the same volume pressures that the big brand producers face, Matt says he and head distiller Rohan McGowan are enjoying the freedom to ferment for longer, distil more slowly and experiment to extract the maximum body and flavour from the barley, which they source from three family-owned farms in the South Island.

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“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,” says Matt.

“Over the last few years there’s been a growing appreciation of the role that fermentation and distillation plays in the development of body and flavour 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 distil incredibly slowly, maximising copper contact through the process to refine our profile and then ensure that only the purest spirit is taken for maturation.”

To honour the quality of the spirit, 80% of Pōkeno single malt is matured in first fill casks, leaving the barrel to enhance rather than dominate the flavour 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 twins spirit fully-aged in first fill bourbon and New Zealand red wine casks, married together in cask for a final period of maturation.

While they may carry their own localised geographic marker with the Pōkeno name, Matt says the new single malts capture the pure spirit of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Unlike anywhere else in the world, the New Zealand spirit is forged through a unique marriage of culture and climate. It’s an intangible phenomenon that always connects us to our home but also empowers us to punch above our weight on a global stage. This is the spirit that inspires us to experiment with flavour to create world-class, but distinctively different, single malts that honour the quality and history of their ingredients.”

The Pōkeno range of single malts can be bought online directly from the distillery, a selection of independent whisky specialist stores and at over 120 Liquorland stores throughout New Zealand.

The range will also be available internationally from late 2022 with initial launches into the UK, France, Germany, the US and Australia. With a nod to the unique New Zealand provenance story, global customers will be invited to ‘dare to discover different’.

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