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Long awaited Ignis Fatuus gin a sensory reflection of New Zealand’s rich heritage

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Rambling through thick bush several years ago, Hastings Distillers founder Kate Galloway came across a bleeding kauri. Discovering some gum nearby, she gave thanks to Papatuanuku before carefully wrapping the piece and taking it home, a concept gradually taking shape in her mind.

Inspired to learn more about the towering natives, which can live for over 2000 years, Kate - who established Hastings Distillers with her French partner, David Ramonteu, in 2019 -- began to research the history and lore of New Zealand kauri. "I found the stories of our gum trade and heritage really interesting," says Kate, "and was particularly fascinated by the Māori and Dalmation gumdiggers who worked side by side in the swamps, in really tough, damp conditions, forming a strong bond as they toiled."

It was the genesis of an idea for Ignis Fatuus (I.F for short), a premium sipping gin that pays homage to some of New Zealand’s hardiest pioneers.

Ignis Fatuus is Latin for "foolish flame" and refers to a fey light that could sometimes be seen rising from the swamp or over wetlands. Usually the result of the combustion of gas triggered by decaying plant matter, for some, it represented a fairy, ghost or elemental spirit - something to be feared, or perhaps heralding a folly or impossible hope.

Kate says it was important to capture the sensory landscape of the swamp - dark, smoky, peaty - in the I.F gin as well as story of the families who worked it, a number of whom went on to found our first wineries in west Auckland.

"David and I are winemakers at heart, and we met through wine," explains Kate. "For us, distilling is a natural extension of our original metier. Foraging the kauri gum and having such strong ongoing connections to the wine industry, it made sense to us to create a gin that evokes a sense of history and plays with the idea of the rising vapour of the still. I.F is a special gin to enjoy at home and also makes an ideal gift for homesick Kiwis overseas, who might be longing for the experience of being deep within New Zealand native bush - the earthiness of the forest floor, the dappled sunlight though the trees, even the birdsong."

To create I.F - a limited edition gin available only through the Hastings Distillers website - Kate and David worked with Dr Tracey Wedge from Matakohe’s Kauri Museum to source their gum. Next, they sought an organic sauvignon blanc from which to create the base. "We approached Babich - who, for us, embody the story of those hardy gumdiggers who eventually turned their hand to wine. The Babich family are among the earliest pioneers of the winemaking industry in New Zealand. Our careers, and to a degree, our story, are a reflection of their commitment. We might never have crossed paths had it not been for our shared passion for wine."

David says the wine is then triple distilled and infused with kauri gum, juniper, kawakawa fruit and black cardamom. Every ingredient is organic, and the resulting gin is, like all Hastings Distillers’ offerings, BioGro certified. "Our hope is that is brings to mind the forest floor, the smoke of peat fires, resin, sandalwood, and that there is a vaguely numbing quality from the pungent and slightly medicinal kawakawa. The sauvignon blanc is the perfect base, imprinting its personality on the final gin with notes of quince, pear, rose and citrus which are all common flavours to be found in the desserts of the Dalmations. This is a gin to enjoy neat."

I.F is available for sampling as part of the distillery’s new Bespoke Tasting, which offers those with an interest in the flavour profiles and ingredients of gin, or those wanting to broaden their gin knowledge, a special 90-minute guided experience in the Hastings tasting room.

"I.F is an opportunity to connect to a lesser-known chapter of New Zealand history," continues David, "to taste something special, unique, and to pay homage to the founding fathers of New Zealand wine. It has been wonderful to bring all the elements of such a rich story together, from a vision Kate first had that day in the bush."

To order your bottle of I.F, please visit the website: or phone 06 870 3991.

Ignis Fatuus 500ml gin: $265

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