Time for change
Located on Lake Dunstan just 45 minutes from Queenstown, 30 minutes from Wanaka and 10 minutes from Cromwell, the property is poised to entertain locals and tourists alike in the coming years. The prominent, 36 hectare Central Otago parcel overlooks both Lake Dunstan.
The Central Otago property provides the perfect climate and water quality for producing whisky. “The 45th parallel (half way 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 whisky. Naturally the pristine water quality is also ideal for distilling gin & vodka, pulling from glacial run-off from the Southern Alps. And with almost 60% of shareholders based in Otago, as well as our Chairman Peter Kean who was born and bred in the region, it always felt right. Mclaughlin continues, “4 years ago we also acquired an award-winning single malt whisky distillery and we’ve been quietly putting down whisky since and we’ll soon be launching Scapegrace Single Malt Whisky.
The Scapegrace Distillery has been designed by Nat Cheshire, Ascinda Stark & Emily Doll of Cheshire Architects and will be delivered by Central Otago locals, family-owned builders Breen Construction. World-renowned Cheshire Architects, famous for spearheading the design ofsome of New Zealand’s most influential and impressive spaces including Hotel Britomart and The Pavilions at Britomart, Tara Iti Clubhouse and City Works Depot, will ensure the distillery is the perfect balance of urban design meets rural setting; experiential and hospitable, epic in both scape and scope, Cheshire explains his inspiration “Two simple longhouses slip past each other, abutted by lichen and Kanuka, recessive but unapologetic in this enormous landscape. Inside, darkness, distillation and delight.
How it all began
Founded almost 10 years ago by Wanaka based brothers in law Daniel Mclaughlin and Mark Neal along with Richard Bourke, the trio had an enduring vision to produce superior spirits from New Zealand which could be sold in all parts of the world. Fast forward to the present, where the brand is now distributed to 35 countries and has picked up countless international accolades, including its biggest honour, the world’s best London dry gin at the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition in London 2018.
Construction has already commenced on the first building which contains the new Scapegrace head office, bottling hall, warehouse and the first barrel room, due to be open in August 2022. Each barrel room holds almost 2000 casks of whisky with 3 more barrel roomsplanned over the coming years. The second building which contains the new distillery opensin October 2023. The Scapegrace Distillery property plans to open with a substantial food & beverage experience and distillery tour offering. The buildings will be 4500m2 once completedand eventually more than 35 employees will be on site across a mixture of roles.
Scapegrace has received support from both the Cromwell Community Board and the Central Otago District Council. Mayor of Central Otago, Tim Cadogan notes “Scapegrace Distilling Company will bring an exciting new offering to Central Otago for residents and visitors alike – that has to be a good thing. It promises increased job opportunities, the engagement of local contractors, and another string in the bow of what our district has to offer”.
The development will be 100% independently owned by Scapegrace and funded through a mixture of debt and equity, with the capital raise for the next phase due to commence in the coming months. “Over the past 10 years we’ve been building solid foundations for long term growth, the business is performing exceptionally well with growth of around 50% for FY22 despite ongoing challenges with Covid. Currently 60% of our case sale volume is export and 40% sold in the domestic market. Our strategy is to build this to more like 80% export, 20% domestic in the coming years. We currently work on a 10-year strategic plan and the next milestone is exceeding $10m in sales which we’re on track to do this June 30th financial year” says Mclaughlin.
Scapegrace marketing director and co-founder Mark Neal adds “We made the decision early on to create a world-leading distillery with sustainability at the forefront, so together with the experts at Cheshire we have factored that into every decision we’ve made”. When mapping carbon footprints Scapegrace decided to switch from traditional fossil fuel boilers to electrode boilers. The distillery building structure itself is to be constructed from timber rather than steel, while the team have decided to look at re-purposed stainless steel tanks, rather than investing in new units. “Each decision is an incremental step forward in our quest to eventually become carbon neutral and create a property that enhances the region”, says Neal.
This approach has been applied across the entire project. With a goal to not only enhance its product offering but also foster the community and give back to all who visit the property, the Scapegrace team is already planning a regenerative planting programme that will see $150,000 worth of native Kanuka replanted on the site. Plans are also underway for a walking track through the property allowing locals and visitors alike to pour through the site and enjoy the historic setting including remnants of historic gold mines that will remain as a point of interest for visitors.