A local gin distillery is gaining national attention for what its head distiller describes as "honest" gin.
Stuart Greenhill, head distiller at Stratford's Fenton Street Distillery, says he is delighted with the news two of their gins placed in the Dish magazine top 12 gins in their February tasting panel.
Each month, Dish magazine runs a tasting panel, where judges sip their way through a selection of a specific drink, and select their top entries. The February edition of the magazine was focused on gin, and Stuart sent in three of the distillery's gins for consideration.
"I entered three of our gins; The Artist, The Vintner and The Pioneer. The Pioneer won Gold at the NZ Junipers 2020 in the Matured category. It wasn't mentioned by the Dish tasting panel, so it shows how subjective gin tasting is."
He says he thought the gin produced at the Stratford distillery would appeal to the judges.
"I thought Dish would have a tasting panel that looked past distillery size, past accolades, and gimmicks and focused on the gin, which they did."
In total, 70 gins were submitted by distilleries around New Zealand, and Stuart says he is delighted two of the three Fenton Street Distillery gins entered gained such high placing, and says it was more of a thrill than winning medals in the industry.
"The judges spoke like we do at Fenton Street, they wanted, honest gin; genuinely handcrafted, personal and localised. We knew if we selected a simple range of local botanicals the flavours would offer complexity without the need to throw every New Zealand native into the pot."
The Artist was ranked fourth out of the top 12 by the judges, while The Vintner placed 11th. Stuart says both gins have simplicity in common.
"The two gins that were placed in the top 12 had a strength of flavour from simple recipes. I was delighted that the tasting panel recognised that. A gin can be great without artificial flavours, added sugar, colouring and weird combinations of botanicals. Our gins are not overly refined, they are honest, single batch distilled and the flavour comes from the freshest ingredients, which are local. The Pioneer missed out, probably because it was too complex."
He says he is also heartened by the judges encouraging New Zealanders to embrace local, high quality gins. saying they are often as good, if not better, than larger brands that dominate shelf space in stores.
Placing in the top 12 has made for a good start to the year, he says.
"2021 has started as 2020 finished, with fantastic accolades for Stratford's only distillery."
The team aren't resting on their laurels however, with Stuart now working on making Damson Plum vodka, something he hopes people in the community might be able to help with.
"We are on the hunt for damson plums this season. Covid prevented us from making our Damson Plum Vodka last year so we are eager to hear from anyone who has access to these little beauties."