Awards & Events

Whisky Live Auckland

New Zealand is the latest country to embrace Whisky Live and it did so with style. Dominic Roskrow went down under.
By Dominic Roskrow
I’m standing with a bemused bunch of Australians watching events unfurl in front of us in awed silence.We’re in the bowels of a large and traditional theatre and in front of us the kaumatua of Auckland’s biggest Maori tribe are drinking Scotch whisky from a large Quaich-like cup which once belonged to the Protestant Orange Lodge of Belfast. It has been ‘cleansed’ in traditional Maori fashion with greenstone and given to them by a Scotsman who teaches at a local Catholic school.In front of us a couple of dozen of his female Maori pupils are singing a traditional greeting song to us.To our side a bunch of school boys are about to burst into a haka every bit as menacing in these confines as that of the All Blacks.Welcome, then, to Whisky Live New Zealand style.Anyone truly familiar with this wonderful country and its people will know that New Zealanders have a canny ability to absorb any culture, creed or tradition, to spin it in a unique cultural tumble dryer and to coat it in its own distinctive kiwi livery.And so it was with Whisky Live Auckland.From the moment the event was opened with a traditional Maori welcome it was celebrated with a passion and commitment unique to the Land of the Long White Cloud.It shouldn’t come as any great surprise to learn that New Zealanders love whisky.The English-speaking part of the population is largely of Scottish descent, and in the South Island.But Auckland is an altogether more cosmopolitan city, and Whisky Live organiser Bart Burgers,who owns the impressive Whisky Shop in Auckland, admitted a considerable attack of nerves as he waited to see if the city would support the venture.He needn’t have worried – more than 100 whiskies were exhibited and more than 750 people passed through the doors of the Civic Theatre in downtown Auckland.In addition to most of the international drinks companies it was particularly pleasing to see the likes of Dewar Rattray, Compass Box and Benriach successfully winning over new converts.Other attractions at the event included an impressive selection of food, a number of masterclasses which were all well attended.And the icing on the cake came with the announcement that planning permission has been granted for a new whisky distillery in New Zealand, the first major development since the loss of Lammerlaw,guaranteeing that the country is back on the whisky map and set for a bright future.