What is the gin industry like in New Zealand at the moment?
New Zealand is usually a couple of years behind the trends from the UK and the USA etc but when we get there we often punch above our weight and the same thing is happening with the gin industry. Until 4 or 5 years ago there was very little in homegrown spirits at all and other than 42 Below Vodka nothing much had come out of NZ for many years.
However in the last 4 to 5 years the local craft distilling industry has leapt ahead and there are now at least 30 different gin producers with (at last count) >80 different gins commercially available at some scale or another in New Zealand. Most of us have established ourselves to a large extent independently but in the last 12 months or so we have started to realise that we are becoming an “industry” and looking to work together more and form industry groups both amongst gin producers in particular and independent distillers of all kinds too.
Do New Zealand gins have a distinct style?
NZ gins really cover the whole range from traditional London Dry style gins through to botanical-forward contemporary styles and now to the latest trends in fruit infusions and pink gins etc. However most of the local distillers try to put an NZ spin on our gins. In Curiosity Gin we like to use local botanicals like Manuka (famous for Manuka Honey) and Kawakawa or Horopito (traditional native culinary herbs) to provide unique spins on the international styles.
What are the most popular ways to serve gin in New Zealand?
The good old G&T is of course the favourite but classic cocktails in particular the Negroni are quickly becoming more popular and last summer I noticed a distinct “Gin and Juice” trend…
Which UK and international gins are most available and popular in New Zealand?
All the big international brands are of course available everywhere. Of the independents Hendrick's Gin, Sipsmith Gin, Martin Miller's Gin and The Botanist Gin can all be found pretty widely available. Warner Edwards Gin also has a reasonably wide distribution here but as gin is becoming more popular many smaller UK, Australian, USA and even South African labels are starting to be seen too.
Which New Zealand gins should gin lovers be looking out for?
Curiosity Gin of course! Unfortunately we don’t have distribution in the UK yet but we are on the lookout for opportunities to get our gins into the market. Lighthouse Gin, Scapegrace Gin and Broken Heart Gin are probably the most widely exported NZ gins with a few newer labels like Dancing Sands, Reid and Reid and Juno starting to export.
Are there any 'must go' gin events and bars in New Zealand?
The current gin renaissance is still pretty young in New Zealand but there are a few bars that stand out for their amazing gin selections and focus on making fabulous gin cocktails. In Auckland, 'The Gin Room' is obvious due to the name, but 'My Bar' is a nearby standout.
Nelson’s 'The Cod and Lobster' and Christchurch’s 'Whet Drinking Room' vie for the title of the largest gin selections in the country both with something around 200 gins on their back bar. Dunedin’s 'Zanzibar', Tauranga’s 'Nomad' and Queenstown’s 'Reds' are also well worth a gin enthusiasts visit.
As far as events go 'Gindulgence', which we founded, is New Zealand’s first and currently only Gin Festival. It was held for the first time in Christchurch last summer with 10 NZ gin producers represented and will be bigger and better next summer with possible Wellington and Auckland editions if we can find the right venues.
What's next for the New Zealand gin industry?
More growth, more gins and taking on the world. New Zealand boutique wines and craft beers are already well thought of around the world and our gins are the next great quality beverages to come.