Scapegrace Distillery

April 6, 2023

Building New Zealand’s largest distillery is just the beginning of a new journey for Breen Construction, and its partnership with award-winning boutique spirit brand Scapegrace.


Starting with its new headquarters in the Bendigo Downs Estate and the completion of the company’s first whisky barrel room in September 2022, the $25 million development will eventually have a sophisticated food and beverage facility connected to the distillery, overlooking Lake Dunstan.


Spanning over three stages and covering 36ha, the elevated site above the state highway is one of a number of new major developments in the Tarras area, including a five-year gold mining exploration project, extensive horticulture and viticulture plantings, and plans for a new international airport.


Scapegrace Distilling Co Ltd owner Daniel McLaughlin said it was a complete coincidence that the company, that started shifting its operations from Auckland to Central Otago in early 2022, and exports gin, vodka and whisky to 40 countries, bought land close to where Christchurch Airport plans to build a 2.2km jet-capable runway.


The company has only been in business 10 years but already has many claims to fame, including producing the world’s first naturally black gin, which turns from black to purple when mixed with tonic.


The brand has also picked up a slew of international awards, including title of World’s Best London Dry Gin at the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition in London in 2018.  Scapegrace beat more than 600 other gin companies from 60 different countries in a New Zealand first.  Once upon a time, New Zealand only had one company making gin - now there are over 200.


Founded in 2012 by Daniel and his brother-in-law Mark Neal, along with Richard Bourke, Scapegrace’s business values aligned with Breen Construction, and it just so happens that Breen is experienced in building wineries and barrel houses - including the well-established Felton Road in Bannockburn, and the award-winning Domaine Thomson cellar door.


But with whisky there is an extra level of compliance involved, and Director and Commercial Manager Peter Breen said the ethanol level in whisky makes the 2000-cask barrel room a potential fire hazard, and so the protection of the facility along with Health and Safety was paramount.


The civil works brings its own levels of complexities - from co-ordinating sprinkler pump sheds outside, an ethanol sensor and water infiltration systems.  


Stage Three will involve building the distillery for Scapegrace’s new single malt whisky and extending the barrel house to almost double the storage capacity. This is all expected to be completed by March 2024.


A small bar and restaurant will form part of the Barrel Long House #2, until the larger, more permanent food and beverage facility can be built.


Daniel said the development’s exact location on the 45th parallel was strategic for ensuring a premium distilling process, with the site giving extremes in temperatures - an optimum environment for ageing whisky.


The distillery will also run off an electrode boiler using renewable electricity, rather than on fossil fuels such as diesel, and will be built with timber rather than steel, as well as ‘re-purposed’ stainless steel tanks, in the company’s quest to eventually become carbon neutral.


Designed by Cheshire Architects, sustainability was the key driver in the overall project. The company has worked hard to strike the perfect balance of urban design meets rural setting, and Daniel describes the buildings as a series of farm barn structures recessed into the land - sympathetic with the landscape.


Eventually Scapegrace will produce 20 times more at this new site than in its current distillery in Canterbury.


He said the hospitality offering “will inject that high-end concept into remote Central Otago,” and the brand will also seek to foster the community and give back to all who visit.  A destination in its own right, the plan is to open up the distillery for tours to the public, as well as walking tracks around and behind the site to explore nearby goldmines. Aregenerative planting programme will see also NZD$150,000 worth of native Kanuka trees replanted on the site.


Scapegrace comes from an 18th century word for ‘rogue’ - and it’s also the company’s original name (Rogue Society Gin), but that’s another story.  Scapegrace Distilling Co Ltd has fast become a global spirits brand, and Central Otago has claimed it as theirs.


Project Manager: Peter Corkery, Tyler Smith.

Foreman:  ChrisMagennity

Quantity Surveyor: Tim McCormick, Jeremy Jenkins.  

Designer: Michelle Keimig.

ARCHITECT: Cheshire Architects.

BUILDERS: Pete Craddock, Dick Brown, Thomas Howell,Blaine Gill, Kerry Gilmore, Jimmy Meehan, Andrew Read, Andrew Kerr, MurrayCleave, Chris Henderson, Alan Bell, Thomas Green, Kirk Samuel, Brett Butcher,David Spence, Louis Bright, Cameron Smit, Tony Tohill, John Nailer, JacksonClark, Greg McLeod, Rory Lindsay, Sam Brown, Kevin Read 

Written by MissWordsmith - Aimee Wilson

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