For the last 40-odd years McCashin’s Brewery have been supplying New Zealand with the iconic Macs beers.
And now they have turned their skills to the production of NZ whisky – luckily for us! The company have been unobtrusively making whisky for the last six years. In that time two really good whisky expressions have been released – one of which you can buy and the other you can dream of buying.
The first expression was an 800-bottle limited edition release entitled Stoke IPA Whisky – essentially a distillation of IPA beer. Beer and whisky both come from fermented grain, then it makes sense!
The second offering is a whisky named McCashin’s Single Malt Whisky (link), a 6-year-old that has been matured in a combination of used NZ and overseas French Oak (wine and bourbon) barrels. In current NZ terms for age-identified drams, 6 years is quite a while for a whisky to sit just getting older!
The distillery operates a huge 4,000 litre wash-still and two 400 litre Jacob Carl Plated Stills.
The sheer size of that wash-still amazes me – in the NZ distilleries that we have reviewed so far, most of the stills seem to be around the 500-litre mark (which some have admitted cramps their production capability a bit). A 4,000-litre unit is massive in comparison.
We started on this voyage of discovery to see what there was in the way of locally produced whiskies. There are a lot of craftspeople out there working very hard to make some very good drams indeed and the bar is being set high!
We reviewed the Stoke IPA in December 2019 and scored it very well – our original tasting notes are below. Given the limited bottling run I would be surprised if you can still purchase a Stoke IPA but if you can you won’t regret it. It’s quite an unusual drop.
The McCashin’s Single Malt is still available at around $130 – $155 for a 70 cl bottle. Again, in my opinion, it is well worth having!
Stoke IPA Whisky
59% abv, matured in a Pinot Noir cask, from McCashins Brewery in Stoke, Nelson, NZ.
Appearance: Colour 0.8. A nice, rugged, squared-off, dark bottle.
Nose: Berry fruit, wine cask, and sour washing.
Palette: Smooth, strong, soft honey note, mouth-filling, with a bit of a beer note. Yummy!
Finish: Short, with the beer note remaining.
Comment: I talk about the beer note, but I was given this dram as a totally blind tasting. I had no hint at all about its background other than it was cask strength, one of only 800 bottles produced and cost NZ$80.
Which was absolutely no help at all, really!
And my tasting notes were all written before I knew anything more about the whisky.
It was very hard to pick this whisky’s antecedents from the information I was given. But once you find out it’s distilled IPA beer everything becomes very clear! The sour washing note on the nose is hops.
I want one, and now I have one!
With only a little bit of gloating, the rest of you will have to wait until the next batch. If there is one!
McCashins Single Malt Whisky
6yo, 40% abv. Bottle 1030 of 2,300. Matured in used NZ and overseas wine and bourbon French Oak barrels.
Appearance: A light gold colour with a good hold on glass and light legs.
Nose: Toffee (those old tough and chewy toffee bars in the blue wrappers we used to get as kids – why do I think they were made by Whittaker’s?). Sweet, with the memory of warmed golden syrup poured over hokey pokey and vanilla ice cream.
Palette: The sweetness continues into the taste. Parsley & radishes add to quite complex flavours. Drying on the mouth.
Finish: Shorter, and some spice flavour remains.
Comment: A great “session” whisky if one was settling in for the evening. I am left with the impression that I would have liked to try it with the abv a bit higher – say 46-50%.
However, in saying that, I would not want to detract at all from the whisky as it is presented. It is a great drop, every bit as good and better than a lot of whiskies that can be got from around the world.
We started on this voyage of discovery to see what there was in the way of locally produced whiskies that could cover us in the case of – heaven forbid – a whisky drought in New Zealand.
So far, we have been most impressed with what we have found. And we still have quite a few miles and a raft of local distilleries yet to look at.
For whisky lovers in New Zealand, we strongly recommend the local products. We are really looking forward to continuing our voyage and bringing you drams from around NZ. As that old TV ad used to say, “Don’t leave home until you’ve seen the country”.
There are a lot of craftspeople out there working very hard to make some very good drams indeed and the bar is being set high!