Southward Distilling: Crafting World-Class Spirits from Wellington

Our brewery of the month is none other than Southward Distilling. Why the name "Southward"? Well, it's got a lot to do with family and a bit of rugged tradition. Picture this: a family fishing boat, guided by a tough-as-nails captain who, by the end of his journey, had a few less fingers to count with. But that's the kind of resilience that makes a great story, right? Setting sail, braving the elements, and then coming home to share a drink with your loved ones.

From the heart of Wellington, New Zealand, Southward Distilling is making a name for itself, one delicious spirit at a time.

We recently sat down with owner Frankie to dive into her captivating story. So grab your favorite drink, get comfy, and let's sail into the world of Southward Distilling!

What inspired you to start making Gin?

"I actually wanted to make whiskey; that is what brought me here. I was at a crossroads, just having found out I wouldn't be able to stay on with the Canadian company I moved to New Zealand for, and I didn't know what I was going to do next.

So, as anyone or, well, some people would do when they need to make a decision, I went and had a whiskey. I was drinking Bruichladdich Waves and thought, 'If I could do anything, what would I do?' And the answer was to make whiskey. Now, whiskey takes a long time, so I sidetracked into gin, which is how I got into making gin.

What sets Southward Gin apart from others in the market? Are there any unique ingredients or production techniques you use?

What sets us apart is definitely an innovative use of methods and flavours. I wanted to make dark gins that pull unique flavours to really connect with peoples different tastes. I also wanted to weave nostalgia into it and every gin we make comes with a story behind it. I always wanted those flavours not just to taste good but evoke some emotion, even if it was subtle. For example our Smoked Rosemary and family roast dinners, or our Wave Gin and a coastal walk on the beach.

Can you tell us about the botanicals you use in your gin and how they contribute to the flavour profile?

We use the standard gin ingredients of juniper, coriander seed and lemon. But, we also use innovative flavours like New Zealand grown Blood Oranges that we hand peel and juice every year that they season. We also use smoking technique in gins such as our Smoked Rosemary and our Negroni and Coffee gins to add a new level of flavour.

Our botanicals are mainly macerated/steeped over night to create a very full on flavour profile. We use our basket to add subtle touches of lighter tones, but we mainly go for big bold flavour tones.

What challenges have you faced in the gin industry, and how have you overcome them?

The gin producers have really exploded over the last few years since we've been in business. With our ultimate goal being whiskey, I've always wanted to take a creative lens to push the boundaries of the flavors we can highlight while crafting gin.

Producing gin isn't cheap, and the increasing cost of liquor tax is a burden often hidden from consumers. People are encountering this at the shelves as excise taxes have gone up by 14% in just two years. While there is still space to overcome this with the government's support for excise relief for local and small distilleries, for now, we have to work within these constraints.

What are your favourite limited-edition or seasonal gins that you produce?

I love anything we do in a Barrel. It takes time and we really try and pick flavours that work well together to go beyond the traditional barrel aged gin. Previously we have done Barrel- Aged Blueberry Sloe style gin in a Bourbon Barrel and recently we just released our Chardonnay Barrel Aged Chilli Gin. They are limited so once they are gone they are gone. Blood Orange Gin is my love-hate, we hand peel and juice all the New Zealand grown blood oranges, and they only harvest for one month of the whole year. But it is so delicious that it is worth it.

Can you share any amusing mishaps or whoopsies that have happened during the gin-making process?

Yes, I spilt my entire second batch of Mountain gin that I ever made. We used to bottle out the back of Heyday and had to move the gin down a ramp. I was doing it on my own and the silver drum hit the bottom of the ramp and tipped over. 100L of gin was just sitting on the floor.

The kicker, there was no drainage in the back so it was just deep puddles of gin. The funny thing was after we cleaned up, all the staff who came in commented how great it smelled in the back and who had gone the extra mile to clean. I moved on, but, definitely had a whiskey at the end of that day.

How do you feel the Gin Industry is going as whole in NZ right now?

I think the New Zealand Gin industry is at a very unique stage, there are a lot of small producers and brands entering a saturated market. Gin globally has had such a boom that now you are seeing Gin give way to other distillery ventures like whiskey. You really have to have the guts to stand out. I see NZ gin drinkers really going back to the classic dry gins as opposed to the big flavour boom we have seen over the last few years.

Does your team have a ritual or tradition they follow before, during, or after the gin-making process?

A bit boring here, no traditions or rituals during the gin making process. I just turn the music up really really loud in the early morning of starting the still before anyone is there.

If you could name a Gin after your distillery team, what would it be called, and what ingredients would it include?

Hardy Rebel - Able to survive and adapt and do things just enough our way while learning from tradition.

Now that you've had a glimpse into the remarkable journey and spirits of Southward Distilling, we hope you're as excited as we are to experience their fantastic Gins.

Shop the range of Southward Distillery Gin, Whisky and Vodka and if you're ever in the capital go and visit them for an amazing tour and tasting.

We were also so excited to team up again with Southward Distillery to create this unique, one of a kind Birthday Gin, to celebrate Fine Wine Delivery's 26th birthday in August.

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