What is the gin industry like in New Zealand at the moment?
Anthony: In the last 4 to 5 years the local craft distilling industry has leapt forward 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.
Chris: The gin industry is one of the more rapidly growing categories in the spirit world in NZ. We are usually slightly behind the trends of the UK so from a consumer point of view, craft gin is still fairly new and very much a educational process on the different types and flavours. However there is a increasing demand for quality and there seem to be new small distilleries and brands popping up every other week which is great to see from our point of view.
Do New Zealand gins have a distinct style?
Anthony: 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.
Chris: I think NZ gins, in general, promote the natural outdoors NZ has to offer so in turn use a lot of native NZ botanicals. This often gives gin very leafy, peppery and quite earthy flavours which is quite unique in comparison to European styled gins. At Indiginous we have created our dry gin based on a London Dry style but substituted some traditional botanicals for NZ ones, so we have sourced our botanicals from where they are best grown in the world but still with a NZ twist.
What are the most popular ways to serve gin in New Zealand?
Anthony: 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?
Anthony: 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?
Anthony: 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.
Chris: The quality of gins being made in NZ is starting to become very high, with many very unique characters. I think you need to try them all! There are homemade distillery maps online for spirit enthusiasts to travel through distilleries around NZ.
Are there any 'must go' gin bars in New Zealand?
Anthony: There are a few bars that stand out for their amazing gin selections and focus on making fabulous gin cocktails:
Chris: Cocktail bars are making a comeback in a big way, especially in the capital of Wellington. with many having a great selection of gins:
Are there any 'must go' gin events or festivals in New Zealand?
Anthony: 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.
Chris: As Anthony mentioned, Gindulgence has been around for a couple of years in Christchurch & Wellington. 'Gincredible' debuted this year in Tauranga and was also a massive hit. I think there will be more and more gin festivals pop up around the place with these original ones getting great feedback from attendees.
What's next for the New Zealand gin industry?
Anthony: 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.
Chris: Growth in the gin industry is just getting started and with the great quality now available it is time to promote NZ gins as much as possible and get our bottles out to the rest of the world to showcase NZ as a serious gin and spirits destination in the world.