The road from scalpels to spirits
Bec Kay’s many years working as a theatre nurse certainly came in handy when she decided to hang up her scrubs to become one of New Zealand’s few female distillers.
Becoming one of just a handful of female distillers in the New Zealand spirits industry was an unexpected change for The Bond Store’s Bec Kay, but one her career as a theatre nurse set her up perfectly for, as her family business grows and establishes itself as one of the country’s top independent distilleries.
Established in 2017, The Bond Store makes a range of award-winning spirits, including its top-selling Great NZ Gin Trap(Kawakawa Gin that comes in its very own rat trap), Down the Garden Path Gin (made using heritage roses from the Botanical Gardens), and its new range, Cocktail Collusion (premium cocktails in a can made from the Bond Store’s spirits and other top-shelf NZ ingredients).
Bec Kay is a driving force behind the distillery’s innovation and expansion and one of around only ten female distillers in the country.
“Apart from loving a good gin, I didn’t know a lot about distilling before I began - but my experience as a theatre nurse has been hugely influential in our success. I came from an intense area of nursing, and we had to have at least three backup plans in place every day. From day one at The Bond Store, I’ve applied the same approach to distilling because while it may not be a life-threatening situation, it’s a sensitive process with a number of steps, and anything can go wrong at any time.
“I like to get in and fix things myself; I am organised and very particular about cleanliness and detail. All these skills have come from working in an operating theatre for 18 years and have transferred perfectly into the distillery,” she says.
Given that female distillers are still rare in the New Zealand spirits sector, Kay is passionate about encouraging more women into the industry, beginning with The Bond Store.
“Our manufacturing team is all female, which I’m very proud of - and it’s an element of the business I’m looking to grow. Many people still assume that Chris - my co-founder and partner - is the distiller and like to ‘mansplain’ to me. It’s always satisfying to correct them that not only am I the distiller, but our entire production team are women,” she says.
Being known as the ‘gin lady’ on the Kāpiti Coast (where the business is based) is an unexpected side effect of being Chief Distiller, but is something Bec Kay loves.
“I’m so proud to make products that people love and keep on buying. I’m often stopped at the supermarket where people ask if I’m the ‘gin lady’, which verifies we’re on the right path.
“If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be Chief Distiller in our family business, I wouldn't have believed them - but it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done. The fact that our business is having a positive impact on the wider spirits industry and breaking barriers to encourage more women to consider a career in distilling is an added bonus,” she says.