Farm to bottle - Historical Wairarapa farm inspiration for award-winning gin
A pair of unlikely farmers are taking inspiration from natives growing on their historical Wairarapa property to make award-winning gin distilled on the coast north of Wellington.
Chris Barber and Bec Kay are co-owners of The Bond Store and own five acres of land that were part of Masterton’s famous Blairlogie Station, originally established in 1857. They bought the land and a three-bedroom home in their 20s when high house prices in Wellington saw them expand their property search further afield.
Their farm is home to a range of native trees and plants that were part of the original farm, including totara, harakeke, manuka and kanuka and kawakawa, a key ingredient in their best-selling gin. Now, they’re expanding their regenerative forest and planting another 175 natives this autumn, as well as trialling juniper seedlings to see if they can grow the berry in the Wairarapa.
Chris Barber says their kawakawa flourished when they stopped farming sheep, and when they began making gin, they took inspiration from what was growing in their backyard.
“When we began distilling, we did so with the goal of using ingredients that were NZ sourced (where possible) and grown close to home. Kawakawa is revered for its healing powers and has helped us create a very special gin. It is considered to be a sacred ingredient and being able to follow tikanga while we harvest at home is extra special,” he says.
The pair hope the trial of their juniper seedlings will be successful so they can include homegrown juniper as an ingredient across their gin range.
“Juniper isn’t normally grown in New Zealand,” says Chris.
“However, we’ve sourced some seedlings from Nelson, and we’re hoping we can find the perfect spot for them to grow so we can use homegrown juniper in our gin instead of importing it,” he says.
Bec Kay says the 175 new natives will also play an important role in addressing The Bond Store’s carbon footprint, something the couple is passionate about eliminating.
“We want to go further than just offsetting our emissions; we want to positively contribute towards the environment. Planting trees is just one way for us to do that while we work towards our own circular economy. Our sustainability commitments include our own at-scale bottle recycling scheme, which has seen thousands of bottles from restaurants and bars across the capital re-used up to seven times before they are eventually recycled.
“While we don’t consider ourselves farmers in the ‘true’ sense, we care about restoring the natural environment and contributing towards a healthier planet. We also love the fact we're regenerating somewhere both special and historical, while being inspired to create delicious, unique gin",” she says.
About The Bond Store
Chris Barber and Bec Kay purchased Koakoa Limoncello in 2017. Since then, they have grown the business to offer The Bond Store Kawakawa Gin and Vodka, limited-edition gins and its new range, Cocktail Collusion - bespoke readymade, premium cocktails in a can. Focused on sustainable practices in their craft, they use lemons from Gisborne to make their award-winning Koakoa Limoncello, and Kawakawa from the Wairarapa to make their award-winning Bond Store gin. Available at selected bottle stores, you can also purchase their products online at thebondstore.co.nz.