Nature’s bounty

Waiheke Distilling Co

New Zealand’s Waiheke Distilling Co is famed for its breathtaking views, which influence every sip of its extraordinary spirits

The garden of Waiheke Distilling Co is a cornucopia of earthly delights, a bouquet of beautiful flowers and fragrances that waft across Cowes Bay on Waiheke Island, a 40-minute ferry journey from downtown Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Distillery founders Glen Cadwallader and Liz Scott call it their “ideas factory”.

“The garden really is our inspiration for new flavours and ideas and how we present our final products,” says Liz. “Not only do we craft and distil all our spirits on the property, we also have this magnificent island setting where we can present our botanical-based gins and cocktails to the public. We are very proud of using natural ingredients from our environment. Everybody knows about wine and grapes, but not everybody has seen what a juniper tree looks like. We have a unique opportunity to show people all the nuances of what goes into our spirits and the thought that we put into the flavours we choose.”

In the three years since Waiheke Distilling Co’s foundation, the company has developed three premium gins that have made waves in the local market and are winning fans further afield. The signature gin is Spirit of Waiheke, a contemporary gin that pays homage to the island through a subtle flavouring of kelp. The London Dry is a unique interpretation of the time-honoured classic, adding Seville orange and a hint of lemon alongside macadamia and pink peppercorn. The jewel in the gin collection, however, is the vibrant Red Ruby, which is made with an infusion of succulent New Zealand cherries.

“We don’t add water, colour or sweetener; it’s completely natural and is very popular. We try to use every bit of each fruit to its full capacity. When we harvest citrus, we use every element: we pare and dry the peel to use in the spirits, and the juice is used in our cocktails.”

This commitment to sustainability is built into the fabric of the company and is also evident in its stunning collection of bottles, which focus on art rather than a heavy reliance on textural branding. Any required product information is detailed subtly on removable biodegradable labels so that the bottle can be tastefully re-purposed by customers at home.

Visitors to the distillery can experience the island’s considerable charms in the botanical garden, with its expansive views over a stretch of the Hauraki Gulf that is not often seen. Highlights of a distillery visit include product tastings, classic and innovative cocktails, and food prepared on-site using fresh herbs, greens and flowers from the garden.

Waiheke Distilling Co has primarily focused its energy and attention on creating award-winning gins but is planning to expand into the European and Asian markets and is also diversifying. “We grow roses that we get a lovely rose-oil fragrance from, and we are using that for some of our new products, which include botanical vodkas, and soon a range of liqueurs,” says Liz. “These are all things we can craft on a boutique scale that a larger company might not be able to do. It took us three years before we were ready to open our door, but from the moment we put our product in front of people we’ve been getting incredible feedback. It had always been a dream to make something ourselves, and it’s so exciting to be able to do that on our own piece of land with this lovely garden from which we draw all our inspiration.”