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Thomson Whisky: A Spirited Revelation from New Zealand

Amidst the clamour of Australian whiskies commanding international attention, it's only natural to wonder whether New Zealand can carve its own niche in this fiercely competitive realm. The answer, as we're about to discover, lies in the exceptional quality and innovative approach of distilleries across the Tasman sea - distilleries like Thomson Whisky.


Thomson Whisky began its journey as a modest independent bottler, curating its offerings from the Willowbank Distillery. Founded on an unwavering passion for whisky, this boutique distillery has since grown into a heavyweight contender, earning a well-deserved spot on the world map of fine spirits. Their success can be attributed to a commitment to crafting premium, artisanal, and progressive whiskies.

At the heart of Thomson Whisky's operation lies the art of distillation, meticulously conducted through a hand-beaten copper pot still. The foundation of their process is rooted in the use of only the finest ingredients: quality malted barley, pure water, and yeast.


Each batch of whisky undergoes two distillation runs, a process that's tightly controlled. The next critical phase is aging, which unfolds within an array of casks, including ex-bourbon barrels, New Zealand red wine casks, and smaller bespoke casks.


This devotion to excellence and innovative craftsmanship shines through when you explore their unique expressions, such as the idiosyncratic Manuka Smoke and South Island variants.


The Manuka Smoke whisky, bottled at 46% ABV, may be considered a work in progress, but it's far from underwhelming. From the very first whiff, it captivates with a subtle campfire smokiness. Vanilla, heathery Manuka honey oils, herbal freshness, bay leaf, and hints of cinnamon complete the aromatic symphony. The palate unfolds with the smokiness taking centre stage, harmonizing with fruity and menthol notes. The journey concludes with an extended finish marked by wood oak, liquorice, subtle aniseed, and a tantalizing wisp of ash.


This unique and endearing whisky is a must-try, especially for enthusiasts of Islay-style smoky drams looking for a different shade of what usually excites their palate.


For those with an affinity for peaty whiskies, Thomson's limited batch bottling, refined with local South Island Peat, offers a delightful choice.

Despite its relative youth, it delivers intriguing iodine nuances intertwined with vanilla and subtle smoky undertones. Not unlike the Manuka Wood expression, it features herbaceous and tangy fruit highlights, all influenced by maturation in smaller ex-bourbon casks. The result is a complex flavour profile and a finish marked by a satisfying spicy note.


Thomson Distillery's "Two Tone" release presents yet another revelation, symbolic of its dual cask maturation. The whisky matures in two distinct cask types: European oak, previously home to New Zealand red wine, and American white oak reserved exclusively for whisky.


Represented by an infinity symbol on the bottle, this whisky marries the best of both worlds.

The nose is an enticing fusion of roasted cashews, florals, and subtle hints of strawberries.


As you take your first sip, the journey leads from the nose to a palate graced by cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and boysenberries, all interwoven with freshly made vanilla caramel.


Subtle notes of chocolate and a soft peppery spice emerge, reminiscent of savouring strawberries in a brandy snap basket. The finish, gentle and medium in length, leaves a hint of citrus and makes for easy and delightful sipping.


Thomson Whisky's journey, from an independent bottler to an innovative heavyweight, showcases their unwavering commitment to producing exceptional spirits. While the world has long celebrated Australian whiskies, it's high time we raise a glass to Thomson Whisky from New Zealand and acknowledge their remarkable contributions to the realm of fine spirits.


Here's to the next chapter in the world of whisky, one that promises to be just as exciting and exquisite as ever.


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Words by AW.

Photos courtesy of Thomson Distillery.


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