Award-winning New Zealand craft spirit producer Scapegrace Distilling Company has announced the arrival of a new $25 million distillery in Central Otago, thought to be Aotearoa's largest ever.
In time, the development will produce the entirety of Scapegrace's current portfolio of premium gin and vodka as well as its soon-to-be-released single malt whiskey, with plans to expand into other products further down the line.
Located on the picturesque, sprawling shores of Lake Dunstan, the distillery will be a short drive from both Cromwell and Wānaka and about 45 minutes from holiday hub Queenstown - positioning the property as a hotspot for both locals and tourists alike. The 36-hectare plot overlooks the man-made lake and reservoir as well as Mount Pisa, boasting stunning and uninterrupted views of the mountainous and historic Bendigo landscapes.
Scapegrace Distillery has made a name for itself in Aotearoa and abroad for its handcrafted, artisan spirits, produced here in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Founded almost a decade ago by Richard Bourke and Wānaka-based brothers-in-law, Daniel McLaughlin and Mark Neal, the trio were united by a vision to create superior spirits that brought a little taste of New Zealand to the rest of the world.
Fast-forward to 2022 and the brand is now distributed to 35 countries and the recipient of countless international accolades, including being crowned the world's best London dry gin at the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2018.
"With almost 60 percent of shareholders based in Otago, as well as our Chairman Peter Kean who was born and bred in the region, it always felt right," managing director Daniel McLaughlin said in a statement.
The distillery's Central Otago location will provide the ideal climate conditions and water quality for producing premium whiskey, McLaughlin noted. The company acquired an award-winning single malt whiskey distillery four years ago, and has been "quietly putting down" the distilled alcoholic beverage ever since. A launch date has yet to be finalised for Scapegrace Single Malt Whiskey, but its creators said it's on the horizon.
"The 45th parallel [halfway point between equator and south pole] runs directly through our distillery site, giving us extremes in hot and cold temperatures - an optimum environment for ageing whiskey," McLaughlin added.
"Naturally the pristine water quality is also ideal for distilling gin and vodka, pulling from glacial run-off from the Southern Alps."
The Scapegrace Distillery has been designed by Nat Cheshire, Ascinda Stark and Emily Doll of Cheshire Architects and will be delivered by Central Otago locals and family-owned builders, Breen Construction. World-renowned Cheshire Architects, famous for spearheading the design of some of New Zealand's most influential and impressive spaces - including Hotel Britomart and The Pavilions at Britomart, Tara Iti Clubhouse and City Works Depot - are aiming for a balance of urban-meets-rural, seamlessly fusing the design with its stunning natural setting.
Renders of the design supplied to Newshub reveal plans for two simple longhouses, bordered by lichen and kānuka and surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful shores of Lake Dunstan, while by contrast, the inside of the distillery presents a dark, dimly lit space with modern, minimalist influences.
Construction has already commenced on the first of the two buildings, which will contain the new head office, bottling hall, warehouse and the first barrel room, with an opening date slated for August 2022. Each barrel room will hold almost 2000 casks of whiskey, with three more barrel rooms planned over the coming years.
The second building, which is set to contain the new distillery, is scheduled to open in October 2023. The buildings will be 4500m2 once completed and eventually, more than 35 employees will be on site across a mixture of roles.
In a statement, Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the distillery is an "exciting new offering" for residents and visitors alike, as well as promising new employment opportunities for locals and presenting another attraction in the highly popular region.
"That has to be a good thing. It promises increased job opportunities, the engagement of local contractors, and another string in the bow of what our district has to offer," he added.
The development will be 100 percent independently owned by Scapegrace and funded through a mixture of debt and equity, with the capital raised for the next phase due to commence in the coming months.
Scapegrace marketing director and co-founder, Mark Neal, added: "We made the decision early on to create a world-leading distillery with sustainability at the forefront, so together with the experts at Cheshire we have factored that into every decision we've made."
When mapping carbon footprints, the company made the decision to switch from traditional fossil fuel boilers to electrode boilers. The distillery building structure itself is to be constructed from timber rather than steel, while the team have decided to look at repurposed stainless steel tanks, rather than investing in new units.
"Each decision is an incremental step forward in our quest to eventually become carbon neutral and create a property that enhances the region."
A regenerative planting programme is also in development, which will see $150,000 of native kānuka replanted on the site. Plans are also underway for a walking track through the property, allowing visitors to pour through the site and enjoy the historic setting, including the remnants of gold mines that remain a point of interest for visitors.
It's hoped the distillery will be open to the public around November 2023.