Organic whisky distillery launched at Lammermoor Station in central Otago

A new liquid gold rush could be on the way for the remote central Otago district of Maniototo.

A farming family has set up their own whisky distillery at Lammermoor Station as a project inspired by the region's history.

The Elliot family runs 18,000 livestock across more than 5000 hectares at the southern end of the Maniototo. But recently, they've added an organic whisky distillery to their operation.

"The distilling's more of a hobby at this stage while we're doing our livestock, and cropping is the bigger part of the farming operation," says John Elliot.

"But this is all falling into place quite nicely."

It's not the first time whisky's been produced there. There used to be a distillery on the hill back in the 1860s gold rush era - probably an illegal moonshiner.

"But we've mustered for years on horseback out there and never found the bloody thing," says Susan Elliot. "[We] looked, but I'd imagine they've got it quite well hidden."

The Elliots have repurposed various bits of equipment for their number-eight-wire operation. A century-old English tea mixer is used for drying the grain, while an Italian Vallero drum - designed for salting lambskins - is now used for steeping barley.

The farmers are keen to be in control the whole way, from growing and processing their own organic grain, right through to bottling.

"Our environment can be pretty harsh and pretty unforgiving," says Susan.

"We can go from -10degC to 10degC in a day, and all those things are fantastic for maturing whisky."

She's also got a side project of distilling gin, keeping an eye on how the whole process is going as the chemist of the operation.

The first commercial run from the Lammermoor Distillery is expected to make around 4000 bottles of whisky. But good things take time and that's still three to five years away.

However, locals can sample the first trial runs at a function on Sunday that will raise money for the Maniototo Hospital rebuild.