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Reefton Distilling Co. gears up to open new distillery

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

With a successful capital raise completed in March 2018, West Coast start-up Reefton Distilling Co. are preparing to open the doors of their new distillery, right in the heart of Reefton.

The working distillery, retail outlet and tasting bar has been set up in one of Reefton’s original buildings, built in 1860. This previously tired and forlorn building has now been transformed into Reefton Distilling Co.’s new premises.

No. 10 Smith Street will now provide a comfortable home for the distillery team during their first year of operation, and offer a fitting place to welcome visitors, to what will become one of Reefton’s main tourist attractions.

The water of life

Bringing the ‘water of life’ (as whisky is oft described) to the town, is Reefton Distilling Co.’s Managing Director, Patsy Bass’s initiative to help bring visitors and job opportunities to this historic West Coast town.

Patsy was born in Reefton and lived on the site of the former Westland Brewery. She remembered the simplicity of life on the West Coast and when fate allowed, Patsy and her husband Shane, returned to live in Reefton. Her love of the region has been a constant, and she began to look for ways that she could contribute to the revitalisation of her home town.

She commented, "There is something about the spirit of the Coast and its people, they have always had belief in themselves, a can-do attitude and they are not afraid to get behind a new idea. Reefton was an entrepreneurial and prosperous place in its early days, and we plan to add the success story of Reefton Distilling Co. to the history books."

Creating jobs for Reefton

Flow on economic benefits are already being realised, with supply contracts with growers, various trades, consultants, and artists: including builders, electricians, material suppliers, painters, photographers, sign writers and an artisan potter.

Bass went on to add, "the foot traffic and interest to date has been very positive, with locals and visitors stopping by daily to chat, ask questions and to look at George, our traditional 1800 litre copper pot still." Patsy went on to explain that ‘George’, affectionately named after legendary gold prospector George Fairweather Moonlight, would be commissioned at the latter part of 2019 when the company begin production of their barrel matured New Zealand Whiskies.

Although not yet being put to work, George has already taken on a personality as large as his footprint. Patsy smiled as she shared how she had overheard local people introducing George to their friends and their children, "this is George, he’s come to make some jobs in Reefton, for people like Mum and Dad."

First spirits

Reefton Distilling Co. are utilising one of the region’s most abundant resources - copious rainfall - to produce a range of premium spirits including Gin, Liqueurs and Whisky (both Bourbon style and a single malt) using locally sourced ingredients (water, grains, botanicals and aromatics) complemented by a world class brand which draws on the purity and ruggedness of the West Coast.

Having taken up their lease on 1 August, the company have completed the installation of their 380-litre column still and are now ready to begin production of the Little Biddy Gin range and their range of Reefton Distilling Co. Liqueurs.

Once each spirit is created, it needs time to settle before bottling, this crucial waiting period allows the distillery to ensure that each spirit has hit the perfect note. As soon as this stage has been reached, the doors will be opened, and visitors will be able to experience this gutsy new West Coast business first hand.

New website

Such is the demand for their range of products, Reefton Distilling Co. already have a healthy pre-order book, and Bass is upbeat about the growing awareness of their product range, "interest in our first limited release whisky has been enormous, and this is all before we have even announced any details, apart from a few photos on social media."

However, all of that is about to change as the company prepare for the launch of their new website later this month, which will allow customers to learn more about the distillery, purchase products and book experiences ahead of their visit.

A new visitor experience

With significant interest in the West Coast’s untamed natural landscape, visitor numbers and interest in the historic township of Reefton have been tracking upwards and Reefton Distilling Co. are looking to build on those numbers for the benefit of the town.

As well as accommodating the working distillery, the Smith Street premises also houses a retail outlet and tasting bar. Creating a modern tradition in an age-old industry Reefton Distilling Co. have drawn on local characters of old to build their brands and these early pioneers’ stories will form a part of the visitor experience.

The Little Biddy Gin range pays homage to Bridget Goodwin, also known as Little Biddy or Biddy of the Buller, 1813-1899. Bridget Goodwin defined the word 'rebel', a well-known whisky and gin drinking, smoking, 4ft tall, female gold prospector.

George Fairweather Moonlight - a legendary gold prospector, was the first to discover Moonlight Creek, an area famed for some of the largest gold nuggets ever found in New Zealand. Moonlight Creek is also a source of pure water, located just 40 minutes from the distillery and it seems fitting that Reefton Distilling Co.’s Moonlight Creek New Zealand Whisky should pay tribute to this special place.

Managing Director Bass said, "Having local staff means that every member of our team not only understands the importance of our pristine water sources and our use of local ingredients but is also inspired to provide visitors with a truly unique West Coast experience. Visitors will leave not only having sampled our products, but also having experienced a slice of Reefton’s rich history of adventure, innovation, and gold. They will understand what makes Reefton the perfect place for us to make these untamed spirits."

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