FEATURE – MEET THE LOCALS
Meet the locals Here are the names you need to know when it comes to some of New Zealand’s top distilleries, as judged at the recent NZ Spirits Awards… NZSA EVENT IMAGERY BY SMOKE PHOTOGRAPHY
KIWI DISTILLERS shone at this year’s New Zealand Spirits Awards, with local distilleries even beating some of the biggest names in global spirits to take top trophies. The awards, which are open to spirits brands from around the world, aim to benchmark New Zealand products against overseas imported spirits and attracted 344 entries for this year’s event. Organisers say that while the number of international entries has remained steady over the past three years of the awards, the number of New Zealand entries in 2021 was double that of the inaugural competition in 2019.
The independent judging panel awards medals and trophies across seven categories, including Trophy for Best New Zealand in Category and Trophy for Best Overall in Category. New Zealand vodka, gin and baijiu were deemed world-class by the judges, with Reefton Distilling Co. (Wild Rain Vodka), Elemental Distillers (Roots Marlborough Dry Gin) and Taizi (Taizi NZ Baijiu) scooping the Trophies for ‘Best Overall’ as well as ‘Best NZ’ in their respective categories. Here, we highlight the Trophy and special Award-winning Kiwi distilleries.
Mathew (second right) and Rachael Thomson with their NZSA trophy.
THOMSON WHISKY Location: Riverhead, north west Auckland NZSA 2021 Major Award: Trophy ‘Best NZ Whisky’ – Thomson Local Folk & Smoke Single Cask About: Mathew and Rachael Thomson established their eponymous brand in 2009 with just two barrels of whisky. In the vanguard of New Zealand’s craft distilling movement, they established their Thomson Whisky Distillery in Riverhead, north west of Auckland, where they make their range of single malt whiskies and Victor Gin, which they introduced in 2017. Thomson Whisky is made from scratch, by hand, using traditional methods and matured in a range of casks including ex-bourbon barrels, and some New Zealand red wine casks. The Trophy-winning Thomson Local Folk & Smoke Single Cask was first released in 2020 to celebrate all the locals involved in its production. “This year’s NZ Spirit Awards felt incredibly special because of the 12 months we’ve all been through as a local spirits community in the face of COVID,” says distiller Mathew Thomson. “Local Folk & Smoke Single Cask limited edition whisky was bottled with a huge sense of gratitude towards the local folk of New Zealand. When you buy a bottle of New Zealand whisky, you’re not just supporting the distillery you’re supporting a whole community of business, from the farmers who grow the barley, to the brewers, to the bottlers, to the shops – all the locals. We’ll continue to share the love with more good whiskies. We’re feeling proud of the team and grateful for the win.” thomsonwhisky.com 26 DRINKSBIZ AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2021
Matt Bridge and Angie Bradley
LUNATIC & LOVER Location: Auckland NZSA 2021 Major Awards: Trophy ‘Best NZ Rum’ and Double Gold – Lunatic & Lover Barrel Rested Botanical Rum Viniquip New Zealand Design Packaging Award – Lunatic & Lover Barrel Rested Botanical Rum About: This craft distillery on Auckland’s North Shore was founded by husband-and-wife team Matt Bridge and Angie Bradley, who launched their two rums in 2020. Bridge is a professional sailor and sailmaker with a qualification in distilling and a passion for rum. They source their ingredients locally where possible: molasses from the nearby Chelsea Sugar Factory, native botanicals foraged from a nearby beach and others sourced from New Zealand growers. Bridge uses vapour distillation (and a little maceration) to capture the 11 spices, fruits and native herbs in his recipe, giving Lunatic & Lover its “botanical rum” descriptor. The couple says the Trophy win can be summed up simply: “One word - validation! The NZ Spirit Awards is the only competition we have entered thus far and while lots of friends and peers have been highly complimentary about our rum, a blind tasting conducted by an independent panel of experts is an entirely different prospect! “This was the acid test that validated the choices we made to create that particularly unique liquid and it laid to rest those inevitable nagging doubts we’ve had along the way. It’s really given us confidence to stay the course and forge ahead. As for the Packaging Design award – there’s no point being humble here; just look at the bottle and how it’s made – how could it not win?!?” lunaticandlover.com