Patrick Newton explains our choice of casks and maturation programme
an island of wood
Where we differ from traditional whisky making islands is our climate and soil fertility. Where forests meet the sea, Waiheke has a subtropical oceanic climate and a wide variety of grapes are grown here. Chardonnay to Syrrah, over 30 vineyards on the island means a large supply of used, great quality oak and some of our unique wine finish expressions are from barrels less than a kilometre away.
"We are incredibly lucky making whisky on Waiheke, so much good ex wine stock around thats easy to come by. We have some excellent barrels that have had some interesting wines in them. Makes for great experimentation and finishing. "
virgin American oak
some of our non peated, wine finshed whisky spends its first year in virgin american oak. With our climate we get fast extraction and a real kick start to maturation.
"It really boosts the sweet vanillins and toffe apple notes with a heavier cask influence early on, but you have to keep watching them, they get over extracted pretty quickly."
"This works well with some of our more mature wine casks to finish like the french oak chardonnay.We then reuse the barrel for longer maturation for our heaver peated whisky."
our mainstay maturation cask, the refill bourbon allows us control of maturation and sweetness.
"The beauty of these casks are the uniformity and predicatbilty of maturation. Almost like having new oak but without the oomph"
The signature of the Bourbon cask is its buttery nature, we love the effect of our lightly peated new make with the refill. It adds floral notes to the peat and a mellow creamy taste.
we don't use alot of sherry, but we have had interesting results with both our lightly peated malt and ale malts with a final finsh in sherry. Australia makes fantastic sherry, and the barrels have less air miles!!
Typically these would have been in bourbon refills or wine barrels prior to a short sherry finsh. The Australian version of PX, called Apera is a favourite for a sweet christmas cake note, whereas the Muscat gives peachy citrus notes.
we have used a huge vareity of ex wine barrels over the years, and Patricks experience as a wine maker really helps here in grading and selecting the barels we use.
"we avoid any heavily sulphured or barrels that have had bret"
Any that aren't interesting or we have a concern about we discard or shave and re-toast. But there are some gems to be had, Stony Ridge Larouse barrels or Mudbrick Chardonnay are favourites.
"the possibilites are endless, and the more we experiment, the more we learn. Its just such a unique opportunity, having the access to these great barrels for our spirit."
reuse and recycle
we shave and reuse barrels in our program many times. We have had sucess with re toast and re charring our old barrels bringing life back into them.
shave and rechar
ex wine barrels
theres often lots of life left in wine barrels, many such as this one are under extracted, with the wine penetrating less than a few mm.
First we knock the head off one end shave it back to new wood to remove all the wine taint.
back to new wood
ready for a rechar
here you can see the barrel stripped back to new wood with the faintest of pink showing. We use a propane gas torch to char the oak.
level of char
the level of the char is determined by the time the barrel is alight. Here we are aiming for a heavy or level 3 char. The barrel with be alight for nearly a minute, and the oak will start to crackle and pop as its opens up.
Here you can see the char is complete. The oak has opened up with small fissures and cracks. Ready for the head to go back on and a fill.
We use the recharred barrels for different maturaion profiles. The charcoal helps pull sulphur notes and gives a clean fresh finish.