Two brands of whisky made in Dunedin have been named the "world's best" at the Mid-West Whisky Olympics in Michigan.

Despite competing against some of the best known Scottish, Irish and US brands, the 10 year-old Dunedin DoubleWood blended whisky and the 21 year-old South Island Single Malt whisky, both manufactured at the now defunct Willowbank distillery, were named the world's best blended and single malt whisky, respectively.

Production at the Willowbank distillery ceased in 1997, and its collection of whisky has been maturing in the New Zealand Whisky Company's Oamaru maturation store for the past six years, after the company bought the distillery's stockpile in 2000.

Company spokesman Greg Ramsay said the awards were a massive endorsement for New Zealand whisky.


"Getting this international recognition is really important to all of our staff in Oamaru, and supporters around New Zealand, who have always believed that the New Zealand whisky industry could be revived, and once again be a major part of the South Island economy.

"People sometimes don't believe their own produce is world-class until someone from overseas with an accent, tells them it is. In this case, it was a large American judging panel."

Oamaru Maturation Store manager Debbie Preston said the whisky, in addition to being sold in Oamaru, was exported to Australia, the United States and the Netherlands, and had a growing reputation overseas.

"We have really cranked up the exports, and we are just preparing an order for Canada."

Former NZ Whisky Company director John Evans, who helped organised the purchase of the whisky and who now promotes aged Willowbank whisky to cruise ships coming into Dunedin, was not surprised by the award.

The whisky produced at the Dunedin distillery had always been a high-quality product, he said.

"As Dunedin has fine barley, peat and still pure water from local sources and a Scottish heritage it is no surprise that the aged whiskies are first class.

"The opportunity for Dunedin businessmen is to go back to the heritage and distil more to take advantage of these accolades, the supply is running out."