Kiwi firms are rewarding their top performers by taking them to Australia.

New Zealand companies are going to new lengths to develop workplace spirit - quite literally in some cases.

Increasing numbers of Kiwi firms are jetting their top performers across the Tasman as a reward for work well done: One of the most popular 'experiences' as part of an incentive programme is proving to be visits to some of the more than 130 distilleries in Australia.

At one, Archie Rose in inner city Sydney, groups are shown how spirits are made and then get to create their own blend of gin (whiskey blending is also an option).

Using experiences like this for incentive programmes are part of a realisation by many forward-thinking businesses that taking their best and brightest offshore is a great opportunity to build and bond business relationships and retain top talent.


Research confirms travel is a better reward "carrot" than cash - and combining travel with once-in-a-lifetime experiences motivates best of all.

Archie Rose founder Will Edwards says: "In the blending session you're playing with each of our individually distilled botanicals and blending your own gin based on your tastes and preferences."

Over the two hour session participants get a sense of the distillers' art and realise how challenging it is to make a truly balanced gin.

"Oh it's harder than it looks, and that's why we give people two goes at it. What we usually find is that the first round is a bit hit and miss - too much cassia - a cinnamon-like flavour - in your gin is never a good idea! - but we find that on the second try people get a much better result."

The blends are then bottled into flasks for participants to take home.

"These sessions are a lot of fun. Initially when groups sit down and are confronted with 15 different glasses, beakers and syringes it's a bit intimidating - but after we've run through how to do it people really get into it and start tasting each other's blends and comparing notes - it's a great team-building experience."

One participant commented: "Walking into Archie Rose was like finding the ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, except with gin."

Hobart in Tasmania is another destination growing in popularity with Kiwi businesses for incentive programmes.

Sitting on a picturesque harbour, the city has a range of luxury hotels, restaurants and unique venues like the Museum of Old and New Art - and diverse incentive programme options including whiskey tasting.

One distillery, Hobart's Lark Distillery (begun by Bill Lark) produces high quality, premium spirits using traditional time honoured methods.

Its single malt whisky is double distilled in locally crafted copper-pot stills and aged in small, 100-litre oak casks while its Forty Spotted Rare Tasmanian gin uses the traditional botanicals of juniper berry, coriander and lemon peel to create a traditional London Dry style - and showcases the Tasmanian Pepperberry.

Toni Kibbey, head of Lark's marketing and sales, says the distillery works closely with business events organisers to create bespoke and specific experiences.

"These range from tours to tasting experiences at our cellar, or partnerships with other experiences. For example Coal River Farm which is nearby has a chocolatier, a cheesier, strawberry picking and a cafe. We work with them to create Lark whiskey infused chocolates and a tasting presentation as part of the group's dinner."

Lark Distillery allows participants to taste stages of the fermentation as well as the distilled liquor prior to ageing.

"The process of making whiskey is a long one," says Kibbey. "It takes at least five years to mature in a 100 litre barrel, and our guests can have an up close interaction with our process. Lark is one of the only distilleries that brews its own wash (the base product to create whiskey)."

She says many groups are also interested in craft beer, wine and produce and will take the opportunity to visit a winery, or a craft brewery as part of their incentive programme.

Swapping whiskey for wine is easy thanks to Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia - a consortium of premium, award winning wineries like Moorilla near Hobart. They offer a range of wine experiences for incentive groups - including barrel, private and structured tastings, food-wine matching, wine education and gastronomy in locations within Australia's renowned wine regions.

The only problem might be getting the team back on the plane.