Food & Drink

The Best Artisanal Gins In NZ So You Can Level Up Your G&T Game

By Jess Willemse
6th Dec 2022

There's no denying gin's time in the sun isn't going anywhere. No longer destined for your grandma’s top shelf, this humble spirit's popularity continues to soar and local Kiwi distillers are leading the charge. 

From flavoured numbers to classic craft bottles and colour-changing concoctions, here are 21 New Zealand-made gins that will turn your typical G&T on its head. You can thank us later.  

Moksha Drinks

Moksha Drinks was inspired by the Masala chai-studded spice routes of India and is crafted in Takapuna. Daringly, Moksha is less about the juniper and more about the botanicals—it’s known as a ‘tiger among gins’ for a reason. With a flavour profile of refreshing cardamom, warming ginger, Tahitian lime, heady clove and sweet cinnamon, this is gin unlike you’ve ever had before. Better still, their website features a bunch of recipes whipped up by VT Station mixologist, Sahil Patel, that you can DIY at home for the ultimate sipping experience. Chai martini anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer the zingy Chaat Me Up, a liquid homage to the Indian street food snack, chaat. We love that a portion of the proceeds of every bottle sold is donated to Wildlife SOS, a programme that works to conserve India’s natural heritage, forests and wildlife.

Twelfth Hour Distillery

Once you’ve tried Twelfth Hour Dry Gin, standard gins won’t get a look in. Dreamed up by a group of friends in the midnight hours, Twelfth Hour is a relative newcomer to the spirits scene but their small batch premium gin has already scooped up a bunch of gold and silver awards from competitions around the world. So just what makes their gin so darn tasty? Along with a signature blend of juniper, coriander seeds, lemon and orange, it’s spiked with homegrown makrut, an exotic kaffir lime with a delicious zing you’ve probably come across in Thai dishes. Gorgeous paired with your preferred tonic, and garnished with a ribbon of cucumber, this might just be your new favourite tipple.

Elemental Distillers

Housed in a trio of upcycled shipping containers in the South Island, Elemental Distillers produces small batch ‘Roots’ dry gin in Marlborough and Navy Strength iterations. To date, they’ve rounded up an impressive amount of gold awards including snagging World’s Best London Dry at the World Gin Awards earlier this year. The team works with independent farmers, foragers and co-ops in a supply chain that’s fully traceable, and their distillery uses sustainable processes like water re-circulation systems, worm farms, solar power and gravity fed piping, bringing a new meaning to ‘responsible drinking’.

Island Gin

Another worthy entry on the artisanal gin list, sustainability-focused Great Barrier Island business Island Gin took out the coveted Innovation Award at the New Zealand Spirits Awards 2020 despite the fact they’d only been distilling for a year. Scooping silver and bronze for their moreish Navy Strength gin and Original gins respectively, they also scored top marks for their use of recycled NZ Visy Glass for their beaut kīna-inspired bottles filled by a solar-powered bottling machine. Using locally-sourced botanicals and suppliers, such as honey from Great Barrier Island, this little company proves that you don’t need to be on the grid to create beautiful drops. We’re also a bit obsessed with their bronze kina bottle openers.

Scapegrace Black Gin

From award-winning Kiwi gin brand Scapegrace (formerly Rogue Society), this number boasts something so special that it sold out on the first day. The naturally black liquor offers a blend of Aronia berry, saffron, pineapple, butterfly pea and sweet potato, making it sippable straight from the bottle. But the addition of tonic water is where the magic really happens, transforming the black gin into a moody purple tone right before your eyes. Garnish with an apple slice and you’re set to sip. 

1919 Distilling

Based out of East Tamaki in Auckland, let’s just say 1919 Distilling is proud to be Kiwi. Named after the nearly history-changing prohibition vote of 1919 in New Zealand—49.7 per cent of us voted in favour of banning booze—the brand honours the slim majority of Kiwis that stood up for their right to a drink. Their sips are all about using New Zealand-grown botanicals like Manuka honey and Central Otago cherries, and their Pineapple Bits gin that started off as a limited-edition sip only is now a permanent addition to their catalogue—we’re so ready.   

Little Biddy Gin By Reefton Distilling

No self-respecting list of the best artisanal New Zealand gins would be complete without the award-winning Reefton Distilling Co.’s Little Biddy Gin. Though one of the newer kids on the block having been established in 2018, this brand has been snagging awards since its inception. The range was created in honour of Reefton legend Bridget ‘Biddy’ Goodwin, a gin-toting, four-foot-tall, female gold prospector. Their search for native botanicals takes the distillery team deep into the same West Coast rainforest where Biddy once fossicked for gold, to craft a range of uniquely New Zealand gins with a pioneer’s attitude. Distilled from fresh native botanicals Little Biddy Gin captures the West Coast rainforest in a bottle.

Lighthouse Gin 

Inspired by the infamous Cape Palliser Lighthouse on the southernmost tip of the North Island, Lighthouse Gin takes influence from its surroundings in picturesque Martinborough. The sip showcases a unique blend of nine native botanicals like Yen Ben lemons and oranges, and with two options up for grabs, we recommend trying the original for a refreshing citrus taste or the Hawthorn Edition for a more intense, peppery flavour.   

Broken Heart

Step into the realm of sipping gins with Broken Heart's award-winning spirits. You can't really go wrong here, but, in addition to whatever takes your fancy, you should definitley also nab yourself a bottle of their Bella Wild Plum Gin Elixir where sweet tangy plums meet spice, pepper, liquorice and almond. A word for the wise though—this stuff is very easy (and delightful) to drink. What's more, you know a gin is something special when it tastes just as good without any of the booze. Yes siree, if you're enjoying a sober moment, or have gone teetotaller, you can still have your Broken Heart and drink it too with a citrus-spiked iteration of their Original Gin, alcohol-free. 

Hidden World Gin 

If creative small-batch craft gins are your jam, keep your eyes keenly peeled on Hidden World's ‘Gram. It doesn’t get much more authentic than a bottle of booze from these guys, complete with hand-written labels. Take your pick from seasonal specials like Chocolate Orange Gin, Carolina Reaper Chilli Gin or even a cheeky Hot Cross Bun Gin—we can promise you one thing, your taste buds won’t be bored. 

Dancing Sands Gin 

Each bottle of Dancing Sands Gin is blended with water from the aquifer that feeds Dancing Sands Spring, which allows them to make the best possible gin and perfect its taste—so it’s no surprise that this is New Zealand's most awarded distillery. Match this with their meticulous craftsmanship and killer flavour combinations and you have yourself a winner. We can’t choose between their Wasabi Gin, Saffron Gin or Chocolate Gin—so we’ll just have to recommend all three. You should also definitely sample the Sun-Kissed Gin. Aromatic and bright, it sings of sweet, candied strawberry, perfectly balanced with tart and floral rhubarb—it's basically sunshine in a bottle. Created using locally sourced and all-natural ingredients, it'll take your boozy brunch spritzes to the next level. Cheers!

Curiosity Gin

On the scene since 2016, the award-winning Curiosity Gin is made 100% in-house, in small batches, starting from locally sourced malted grain and the best quality botanicals available including east coast manuka berries and leaves, fresh Gisborne orange and lime zest and Otago lavender which all conspire to bring out a true New Zealand twist. We're particularly partial to their Sloe Gin (which incidentally, is NZ's only sloe gin), where sloe berries are steeped in Curiosity Gin for several months in a barrel that was previously used to age Otago pinot noir. 

The Source Gin 

You can’t round up New Zealand’s best gins without mentioning The Source from Wanaka-based Cardrona Distillery. Locally foraged botanicals and rosehip are handcrafted to make the original gold award-winning blend, or alternatively, opt for their Pink Barrel Aged Gin which spends some time hanging out in Central Otago Pinot Noir seasoned oak barrels. Better yet, it’s in support of Breast Cancer Research—that’s a win-win. 

Grey Lynn Gin

From humble garage-distilled beginnings, Grey Lynn Gin quickly won over newcomers and purists alike with its bold, uncomplicated flavours using minimal botanicals so its hero notes shine through. These guys keep things simple with their two wildly different offerings. Keep it old school with their Signature Citrus gin comprising punchy citrus, supported by juniper berries and fennel seeds, or take things up a notch with the delightfully perfumed Parma Violet which gives a sweet finish and lasting lavender aroma.

Blush Gin 

The boys at Blush (yes, lads are behind this stunning pink gin) have been cooking up something special since the release of their first bottle of Rhubarb Gin back in the summer of 2017. A few years on and they’ve added to the line-up Boysenberry Gin and Hot Toddy Gin. Packaged in a particularly ‘Gram-worthy bottle, this triple-distilled, handcrafted tipple is best served with premium tonic, garnished with frozen berries and rosemary.   

Humdinger Gin

Proving its excellent taste with numerous awards, Humdinger gin will have you running back for more. With a few words of encouragement and a bit of imagination, Andrew and Saskia Lewis brought Humdinger gin to life in the heart of Geraldine. Offering a range of flavours infused with history and culture from around the world, Humdinger creates citrus, dry, sloe, bourbon barrel-aged gin and finally, pinot noir barrel-aged gin. Quality botanicals are a core element to the name, so they ensure they source from the best of the best. Check out the distillery that has its cellar door open all year round for free tastings and door sales.

Awildian Gin by Coromandel Distilling

What began as a little cabin experiment soon took off as the award-winning Coromandel gin distillery, Awildian. Created by Paul and Daniela, the distillery was born from a few words of encouragement, a keen passion and a great deal of support. Coming from a background of conservation work, caring for the planet is at the heart of their company's values, ensuring their work does minimal damage along its way. Premium botanicals are sourced right here in Aotearoa when possible, used to create their dry gin, blue gin, spiced gin, and manuka gin. Based in the heart of Thames, the micro-distillery has been named New Zealand's best classic gin all the way from London's 2022 World Gin Awards.

No8 Distillery

A proud distillery with four generations in the making, Dunedin’s No8 Distillery has sustainability at the heart of its processes with a refill and bottle swap system and of course, forging its own botanicals. Next time you’re in Dunners, stop by the new distillery on Hanover Street (they have a free tasting session available five days of the week!) or visit them at Saturday farmer’s markets to get a taste of their delicious products. The No8 Gin Gift Box is the perfect way to see which flavour does it for you—offering their award-winning gin like the Dunners Dry gin, Hibiscus Gin and the Horopito Fire Gin.

Rifters Gin

Off to quick success, Central Otago builders, Hamish Bourke and Stuart Clark have already made waves after winning national and international awards for gins they created not too long ago. The Arrowtown distillery, Rifters Gin, won the gold and the silver medal at the San Fran competitions and the NZ Spirits Awards for their Quartz Gin. While their Orginal Dry Gin went on to win silver medals at both competitions. Foraging botanicals from the property, the thyme, elderberry and manuka gins offer genuine local flavours. The pair hope that when Rifters is sipped on, people think of New Zealand and our natural environment.

Auld Farm Distillery

Have you ever wondered what Southland would taste like in liquid form? Well, Auld Farm Distillery has three unique gins that capture the depths of the Southern Ocean, the vastness of the Southern plains, and the peaks of the mountains in Fiordland. Taste the salty sea air, fresh Bluff oysters and zesty citrus with Ocean’s Keep. Lovers of florals will savour Endless Fields with its bouquet of sweet tobacco, citrus, coriander and grassy notes. For fresh, herbaceous gin, look no further than the crisp blend of mountain botanicals that is Summit’s Reach. If you're indecisive or just want it all, you can try all three flavours in the Southland Terroir gift box. Either way, you’ll be transported to the raw beauty of the south with each sip.

Strange Nature Gin

The prize for the strangest—and most sustainable—gin on our list goes to Strange Nature Gin. What's so strangely sustainable about it you ask? Well, friends, this is a true grape-based gin that is completely traceable from grape to glass. Made from the byproduct of Sauvignon Blanc thus reducing waste, it's then distilled with a single botanical, juniper, to deliver a supremely smooth gin bearing all the quintessential notes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is famous for—part tropical and zesty with hints of fresh pineapple, candied grapefruit and a touch of kaffir lime and blood orange; and part savoury and herbaceous—piney juniper, blackcurrant leaf and fresh green pepper. As if that's not enough, Strange Nature Gin is launching a nationwide hospitality recycling programme that enables its exquisite bottles to be reused and refilled time and again. Ka pai.

Feeling thirsty? Check out 50 of the best bars in Auckland.   

Image credit: Scapegrace.

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchase.

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