Our Story

Cardrona Distillery is family owned and operated. The very best equipment has been sourced from the four corners of the earth, to make great hand-crafted Single Malt Whisky, Gin, Single Malt Vodka and limited edition Liqueurs.

Led by Desiree Whitaker, the exquisite range of Whiskies, spirits and liqueurs produced at the Cardrona Distillery is the result of many years of study, planning and research. Desiree learned her craft from some of the world’s masters and has shaped the very character that is Cardrona Distillery.

Meet The Maker

New Zealand craftswoman Desiree Whitaker, nee Reid, decided in 2011 to pursue her dream of making a New Zealand single malt whisky that would stand tall on the international stage.

Desiree’s Journey


In early 2011, Desiree Whitaker (née Reid), began researching distillation and the crafting of great whiskies and spirits.


Tutored by the Masters

Desiree travelled widely for two and a half years, learning from many of the world’s masters, including the late Dave Pickerell, former head of Maker’s Mark. Her studies took her back to Scotland and through the United States many times, to garner the technical know-how and marketing insight to build Cardrona Distillery.

New Beginnings

In May 2013, Desiree sold her farming business to move to Wanaka, ultimately finding the distillery site at Cardrona. On 23 October 2015, the spirit flowed for the first time and on 5 November, the first cask was laid.


“A great whisky is like a fine piece of
art – it is built in layers, each one adding more colour and texture than the one before. But a masterpiece isn’t something you can make with a click of the fingers. It takes time, patience, and years of waiting.”

Desiree Whitaker

Distillery History

We are immensely proud of what we’ve created at Cardrona. Our distillery is the result of years of research and hard work, resulting in the beautifully crafted spirits made from scratch on site.


Research commenced on whisky and spirit making. Desiree travelled widely to the United States and Scotland.


The site was selected just off the Crown Range road, a popular route between Wanaka and Queenstown. After six months of searching, Desiree chose Cardrona for its pristine location and the pure source of alpine water. Whisky is, after all, a very special product with the character and atmosphere of the distillery having an impact on its maturation and taste.


Environment Court hearing to allow the distillery be built in the Outstanding Natural Landscape of the Cardrona Valley.  Unanimous support from the Cardrona Valley and approved inside 12 months.

5 Jan 2015

Building commenced in 2015.

23 Oct 2015

First spirit flows from the stills.  The distillery was commissioned by Forsyths of Rothes, Scotland.


5 Nov 2015

The first cask was laid.

18 Dec 2015

Cardrona Distillery opened its doors to the public on 18 December.

25 Jan 2016

Cardrona Distillery is formally opened by Richard Forsyth Snr of Rothes, Scotland

July 2016

The Source Gin won Gold at the New York World spirits & wine awards.


The Source surpassed 20% market share of the super-premium gin market in New Zealand.

5 Nov 2018

The first barrel of whisky was opened at Cardrona’s third ‘birthday’ celebration.

6 Dec 2018

The Cardrona single malt cask strength whisky is released. The ex-bourbon cask sold out in three days at pre-sale. Cardrona will release both single casks, as well as a solera expression so Cardrona’s customers can follow Cardrona’s whisky journey.


Began international expansion across Australia and the UK.


Winner of Best NZ Single Malt under 12 years at the World Whisky Awards, Bartender’s Choice awards , World’s 50 best vodkas

Launched our first 5 year single cask release whisky, Growing Wings, selling out in 2 days.