It was a sight that would have brought tears to the most hardened whisky drinker - 3000 bottles of single malt crashing to the floor in a flood of liquid gold.

"We don't know exactly how much is broken or what we will be able to retrieve," said Michael Fraser Milne, the owner of New Zealand's only specialist whisky store, Whisky Galore.

"But it was painful to see a damaged Dalmore 1974 and Highland Park 1968."

But losing thousand dollar plus bottles of whisky pales against the relief that no-one was injured in the spectacular shower of bottles triggered by February's quake.

"It was a wee miracle that no one was hurt because there's not much left on the shelves," said Fraser Milne.

Whisky Galore was just days away from hosting Australasia's biggest biennial whisky festival, Dramfest '11 when the quake struck.

Visiting experts from Scotland were almost on their way, as were a couple of bottles of the world's oldest single malt ever bottled, the Mortlach 7yro/1938 as well as the original film reels of the 1948 movie Whisky Galore from Ealing Studios.

"Luckily we could stop them all in time but the good news is we haven't cancelled Dramfest, it's only been postponed."

Fraser Milne said everyone involved including distillers and distributors including those from Scotland will come out at a later date, a response the Scotsman has found incredibly humbling.

"Last week we had over 60,000 hits on our website and it took us two days of personally answering emails before we realised there was just too many and we sent out a generic reply saying we were alright," he said.

Whisky Galore is in the heart of the red zone on Colombo St and although the building has been yellow stickered, he's still not sure when they'll be allowed access.

"We were told we would be given 48 hours notice before we'd be allowed in and that's meant to happen sometime next week," said Fraser Milne.

"Hopefully that will give us a chance to retrieve things essential to our business.

"I'm really aware that we have no income coming and there's bills to pay and staff to look after. So we really want to get back in and get some normality back."

And rescue a wee dram or two.