Pokeno Whisky: A New Zealand Single Malt Whisky Revolution


At Mizunara: The Shop in Singapore and Hong Kong, the air was vibrant with anticipation as we sat down with the trailblazing duo behind Pokeno Whisky, Matt and Celine. Their passion for the craft was palpable, and as they shared insights into the birth of their New Zealand Single Malt Whisky, it became evident that their journey was steeped in dedication and a quest for innovation.

When questioned about their background and experience in the whisky industry, Matt's response was a testament to his extensive involvement and love for the craft. "I've been immersed in the whisky industry for over 25 years, starting my journey at the youthful age of 27. Prior to that, my roots were in the food industry. The Scotch Whisky Industry, undoubtedly, is a realm of wonder and learning. My tenure within it has profoundly shaped my appreciation for whiskies and the nuances that make each dram unique."

What truly stood out in Matt's reflections was his observation about the evolution of the Scotch Whisky Industry. "Today, the Scotch Whisky Industry, despite its brilliance, has somewhat transitioned into a volume-driven domain. Save for the smaller craft distilleries, the meticulous attention to detail seems to have waned in favour of mass production. This shift has amplified my admiration for the New World Whisky Distilleries and Craft Distilleries."

Drawing inspiration from his tenure at iconic distilleries such as Glenmorangie and Tullibardine, Matt emphasized the allure of the New World distilleries. "The New World distilleries are captivating due to their meticulous approach across every facet of whisky production. This attention to detail fosters an environment of creativity and innovation, paving the way for exhilarating flavour profiles that captivate consumers".

When queried about the choice of Jack Daniel's barrels for maturing whiskies, the response echoed a sentiment deeply rooted in a longstanding partnership and a quest for exceptional quality. Having cultivated a relationship with Brown-Forman for over a quarter of a century, Matt spoke earnestly about the profound appreciation for their first fill select casks.

"Working alongside Brown-Forman for over the past 25 years has been an enriching journey," they expressed, "and during this time, I've come to deeply value the unparalleled quality of their first fill select casks." This extensive collaboration with Brown-Forman, the parent company of Jack Daniel's, evidently influenced their decision-making process.

"For our distillery, the choice of casks was an unequivocal one," they continued. The familiarity and reliability of Brown-Forman's barrels, particularly those previously holding Jack Daniel's spirits, were deemed not just a preference but an assurance of excellence in maturing the whiskies.

Describing the impact of the warm subtropical climate on whisky aging in Pokeno, they highlighted the whisky's accelerated interaction with the barrels. The region's climatic characteristics, characterized by constant shifts between low and high-pressure fronts, trigger an extraordinary phenomenon: rapid evaporation rates exceeding 9% annually for their single malts.

However, this accelerated evaporation poses a distinctive challenge. The fast-paced interaction between the whisky and the wooden barrels necessitates vigilance. Matt emphasized the need for cautious maturation periods, mindful not to overexpose the whisky to the wood. They emphasized a pivotal point: the optimal maturation range for their whiskies typically falls between three and a half to five years.

Comparing this to more traditional whisky-making regions like Scotland, the interviewee noted the significant difference in maturation dynamics. They highlighted the logical implication that their whiskies mature four to five times quicker due to the rapid aging process driven by the climatic conditions in Pokeno.

In essence, the subtropical warmth of New Zealand's climate shapes a whisky-making environment characterized by accelerated maturation and intense interaction between the spirit and barrels. This accelerated aging process necessitates a careful balancing act, ensuring that the whiskies reach their optimal flavour profile within a shorter timeframe to avoid excessive wood influence.

The dedication and passion exuded by Matt and Celine for Pokeno Whisky underscore their commitment to redefine the whisky landscape. Their journey, founded on expertise, a hunger for innovation, and a keen eye for detail, promises an exciting and flavourful expedition for whisky enthusiasts worldwide. As Pokeno Whisky continues to carve its niche, it's a testament to the artistry and innovation thriving in the global whisky renaissance.

Delve into our collection of rich Pokeno Whisky, New Zealand Single Malt Whisky here, a distinctive fusion embodying the essence of culture and climate. Experience the bold and creative single malts that eloquently capture the pure spirit of Aotearoa, New Zealand, encapsulating a unique and unforgettable journey in every sip.