Did you hear the one about the cheesemaker and the dentist who decided to get their teeth into something new and came together to produce top-notch gin? Kāpiti News editor David Haxton meets the makers of Kiwi gin indiginous.

Knowing someone who knows someone can go a long way, and it's a big part of the reason two mates decided to set up a distillery in Kāpiti.

And already the new craft gin distillery in the backblocks of Reikorangi has received top recognition in a major international competition.

The distillery, called indiginous, scooped second place in the Australasian category of the United Kingdom's Gin Guide Awards earlier this year, including the highest score for a New Zealand gin.


"It's an awesome start because we've only really been going for two or three months," co-founder Chris Charteris said.

"It definitely gives you a lot of confidence that you're on the right track in terms of the flavours."

Gin company owners Simon Wilson and Chris Charteris talk about their business.

And the other co-founder, Simon Wilson, said, "We essentially make gin the hard way so it's nice to get that recognition.

The company, on the site of the original Tuatara Brewery, is owned by good mates Chris and Simon as well as marketing whizz Gavin Bradley who is also a minority shareholder.

Chris and Simon got into gin making a few years ago when they were living in Nelson working as a cheesemaker and dentist respectively.

They had been home brewing beer but soon took a keen interest in gin especially when someone told them how popular gin had become.

indiginous gin.
indiginous gin.

"And I had just come from the United Kingdom where gin was massive," Chris said.

So they bought a small column still and started making gin.

"The first brew we did was from a recipe online but we totally stuffed it up. But we took it around to barbecues and everyone was loving it.

"It took about a year of trial and error, because of how people said we should do it, but we ended up pretty much going back at our first brew.

"We figured we had quite a unique selling point in the flavours we were getting and how we were doing it."

Moreover, their plan, when they decided to try and make a gin for market, was to create gin that could be drunk only with a bit of ice.

"A lot of gins these days are selling for premium prices but we found, because Simon is a dentist, there is so much sugar in the tonics.

"We wanted to make a gin that was smooth enough to be drunk on the rocks and also had enough flavour in it so not to add much other than soda water or nothing at all."

They were going to set up business in Nelson but couldn't find premises so moved to Simon's hometown of Kāpiti early last year.

The move would pay dividends especially as "knowing someone who knows someone goes a long way," Simon said.

Various blind tastings were conducted on people they knew and didn't which allowed them to narrow down the flavour profile people liked.

Some of the gin-making hardware.
Some of the gin-making hardware.

They had a lucky break when a friend said they should call Tuatara founder Carl Vasta who had a few sheds in the original Tuatara brewery in Reikorangi.

Carl was happy to help out so they set up their distillery in one of the sheds and have been there since October last year.

The official launch was at Christmas, and after a few stops and starts, they're now up and running and making about 400 to 500 bottles a month.

Despite the hard work and extra demands, on top of Simon's dentistry job, and Chris getting back into accountancy work, the friends are loving their gin business.

Enjoyment was one of their key criteria when they started out and it hasn't dulled.

"The rule, for the business going forward, was that as long at it was fun we would keep doing it," Simon said.