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Five Auckland Distilleries You Can Support with Your Next Afternoon Cocktail

Fill your glass with boutique single malt whisky, pavlova-flavoured vodka or small-batch gin from the outer Hauraki Gulf.
By Stephen Heard
January 28, 2021
By Stephen Heard
January 28, 2021

Put down that bottle of mass-produced rocket juice. There are plenty of local craft distillers who deserve your attention during cocktail hour this sunny season — and we're not talking about your friend's friend who can whip up their own multi-coloured firewater. While gin is the current spirit of the hour in Auckland, there are craftspeople concocting everything from boutique single malt whisky to pavlova-flavoured vodka.



Thomson Whisky was founded in 2014 by Mathew and Rachael Thomson. Just a handful of ingredients form the basis of the pair's signature single malt whisky, and the Riverhead distillery is often lauded for making its products from scratch and without using extracts, sweeteners, colours or flavours. The end result an award-winning single malt with notes of natural smoke, cinnamon, clove and manuka. Elsewhere, there's one matured in New Zealand red wine barrels, another smoky drop using South Island peat, and a white whisky with whiffs of green apple, cereal and coconut on the palate. Aside from whisky, the distillery produces a range of botanical-style craft gins and the whisky and spice aftershave. Just don't mix that last one with your favourite tonic.



This East Tamaki-based craft gin distillery is named after the year in which New Zealanders voted for the right to drink. It appears everything about Soren Crabb's 1919 Distilling links back to our fine nation. All of the gin is distilled in a New Zealand-made still and only the finest locally-grown ingredients are incorporated, including organic lemons and oranges, Otago cherries and sustainably sourced manuka honey. 1919's classic gin is created using all of the above, in addition to botanicals including juniper, angelica root and cinnamon. The company is perhaps best-known for its first limited release in the 'Kiwiana Collection'. The 'Pineapple Bits!' release is a boozy take on the popular chewy chocolate-covered candy. There's a raspberry lamington edition, too, and an award-winning malt whisky for good measure.



Island Gin distiller Andi Ross started playing around with G&Ts in an off-grid beach shack on Great Barrier Island. After experimenting on a small alembic copper pot still with local ingredients, she eventually settled on a blend of manuka and bush island honey as the key notes of what would be her first original Island Gin. The outfit has since picked up multiple awards for its small-batch gins. As well as the classic honey-infused release, there's the distillery's 'Navy Strength' gin which clocks in at a hefty 57 percent. Ross has also teamed up with Auckland chocolate factory Miann for a velvety gin infused with cacao. The unique Island Gin bottles are designed to reflect the textures of a kina shell and are made using a sustainable glass production.



This gin outfit, originally dubbed Rogue Society, was launched by brothers-in-law Daniel McLaughlin and Mark Neal in 2014. A 19th century copper pot still, 12 botanicals and water from an aquifer in Canterbury all play their part in the signature Scapegrace dry gin — a premium citrus-infused drop which has picked up accolades by way of London and San Francisco. It also acts as the perfect canvas for your mixer. The pair have also released the world's first naturally black gin and a velvety vodka which gives off whiffs of pavlova.



Waiheke Distilling Co. can be found on the picturesque eastern side of Waiheke Island. Distiller and co-founder Glen Cadwallader says botanicals are the heart and soul of the distillery's first batch of gins and each variety has its own blend of ingredients. The signature 'Spirit of Waiheke' is a classic dry gin that pays homage to the island, infusing both dried NZ giant kelp and cardamom. Cadwallader says it is best served with tonic and a twist of lime or with a sprig of rosemary for a savoury alternative. The 'London Dry' is a take on the time-honoured cabinet staple, only with notes of lemon, macadamia and pink peppercorn. The 'Red Ruby Gin' is an infusion of ripe New Zealand cherries sweetening the dry gin structure.

Published on January 28, 2021 by Stephen Heard


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