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Spirits of the south

3 July 2022
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team shot lr mark neal daniel mclaughlin
Mark Neal and Daniel Mclaughlin

New Zealand craft-spirit producer Scapegrace has plans to develop a $25M distillery in Central Otago, said to be New Zealand’s largest ever upon completion in 2023, boasting a kanuka planting programme, and historical walking track. Words Hannah Brown

Scapegrace Distilling Company has started developments for its new distillery in Central Otago –located on Lake Dunstan – just 10 minutes from Cromwell. The 36-hecture project overlooks Lake Dunstan and Mt Pisa, boasting incredible mountain views. The site will allow Scapegrace to produce their current portfolio of premium gin and vodka, along with a new addition, its soon-to-be released single malt whiskey. Which is convenient because the property provides an ideal climate and water quality for producing the new product.

Managing director Daniel Mclaughlin says, “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 aging whiskey. Naturally the pristine water quality is also ideal for distilling gin and vodka, pulling from glacial run-off from the Southern Alps.”

Scapegrace was founded almost 10 years ago by Wānaka-based brothers-in-law Daniel Mclaughlin and Mark Neal alongside Richard Bourke. They held a shared vision to produce superior spirits from New Zealand and sell them globally. Fast-forward to now – their products are distributed in 35 countries and have won countless accolades.

Daniel made the move down south permanently last year and hasn’t looked back since.

“Escaping the hectic big city life gives a whole new perspective on lifestyle and how you want to be spending your time. It really is an incredible place to live and bring up our young family, we absolutely love it,” he says.

Mark made the move to Wānaka in January and has loved everything the town had to offer in peak summer – the super-hot days, and barmy nights at the lake.

“Being immersed amongst the mountains, lakes, and rivers is outstanding, also the tight community and friendly people really add to the small-town culture” he says. And with almost 60% of shareholders based in Otago, it always felt right for the Scapegrace team to develop a project there.

Mayor of Central Otago Tim Cadogan says the distillery will bring an exciting new offering to Central Otago for both residents and visitors, promising increased job opportunities, engagement of local contractors, and another string to the bow of what Otago has to offer.

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The Distillery has been designed by Nat Cheshire, Ascinda Stark and Emily Doll of Cheshire Architects and will be developed by Central Otago family-owned builders, Breen Construction. Construction has started on the first building containing the new Scapegrace head office, bottling hall, warehouse and the first barrel room.

The team is also planning a regenerative planting programme that will see $150,000 worth of native kanuka replanted on the site, as well as a walking track through the property for people to enjoy the historic setting and see the remnants of historic gold mines. The distillery is estimated to open to the public in November of 2023.

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