On the eastern side of New Zealand’s South Island, the Canterbury region (known in Māori as Waitaha) has become the base for a bunch of new, small-batch gin distilleries, which are making the most of the region’s native ingredients to craft unique gins that you can only get in New Zealand. Using everything from local seaweed to fresh snow and forest fir trees, these local gins taste like the place where they originated. Support local and pay a visit to one of these distilleries or hunt down a bottle at a Saturday farmer’s market.
Little Biddy Gin - Reefton
Officially established in 1870, Reefton is a small town on the edge of the Canterbury region full of gorgeous heritage buildings that are surrounded by nature. One of these buildings houses the Reefton Distilling Co distillery, responsible for crafting Little Biddy Gin: a small-batch brand that makes the most of unexpected local ingredients. The Classic Little Biddy Gin is made with Douglas fir and native toatoa foraged from Reefton’s forests and has won multiple awards, and the Little Biddy Snow is made with locally collected New Zealand snow. You can tour the distillery and taste drops from the small-batch brand in person.
Curiosity Gin – Christchurch
Curiosity Gin was started in 2016 by a group of friends who wanted to make small-batch spirits that tasted like home. All the gins are made in-house at the brand’s distillery in Christchurch, where tours run daily (you can view the stills and take a whiff of the barrel room). Curiosity’s Classic Gin is popular in New Zealand due to the crisp and citrus-heavy flavour, but one-off small batches like the cult-favourite Pinot Barrel Sloe Gin are available too. To make it, the finest sloe berries are slowly steeped in gin in a barrel that once was used to make pinot noir.
Humdinger Distillery – Geraldine
Started in late 2020, Humdinger is run by husband-and-wife team Andrew and Saskia Lewis. The gin celebrates the “unsung hero” of the region: the honey bee. According to the pair, the botanicals that grow with abundance in the region are reliant on the tiny insect, which pollinates the local crops and keeps the cycle of life flowing. Naturally, Humdinger’s botanicals are all sourced locally, and its two signature gins are award-winners, most recently taking home the bronze medal in the 2022 International Wine and Spirits Competition. The distillery, which is completely visible from the shop in Geraldine, is open to the public, so if you’re there to pick up a bottle, you can also go for a tasting and ask any questions about the gin-making process.
Mt Fyffe – Kaikoura
Mt Fyffe is a local gin brand run by one woman – Justine Schroder – who lives on a sheep farm in the foothills of the stunning Kaikōura region. She forages in the surrounding hillside for botanicals to make her gins, which feature tastes of rosehips, elderflower, kanuka and blue borage as well as local seaweed. Made in a converted woolshed, there are currently has two award-winning blends – Woolshed gin and Shearwater gin, both available to purchase from the website.
Akaroa Craft Distillery
Akaroa Craft Distillery in Akaroa aims to tell the tale of the harbour through the taste of its gin. Set in a newly renovated tasting house, the gin features kelp gathered in Wainui, lavender from Little River, rosehips from Little Akaloa, wild thyme from French Bay and locally grown grapes, lemon and botanicals. Visitors are invited to book in a visit, sample the gin and hear more about the stories that shape its taste.
Resurrection Distillery - Twizel
Resurrection Distillery is run by three mates – Cody Thyne, Richard Brown and Matt Gunn – who believe spirits are a mix of art and science. Their tiny distillery is in the alpine town of Twizel and housed in two shipping containers. The brand’s one and only gin is Rusty Halo, which features smooth manuka honey flavours, as well as botanicals, maize and rye sourced locally from Mackenzie Basin in the centre of the South Island. The team offers in-person tours of the distillery for $20 and its gin can also be ordered online.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Christchurch NZ.