The Artisan Spirit: Hastings Distillers

Hastings Distillers feels like an anomaly: a luxury, boutique organic distillery - New Zealand’s first -  located in the heart of traditional wine country. The brainchild of Kate Galloway and David Ramonteu, both veteran winemakers themselves, Hastings Distillers specialises in gin, and has recently added it’s L’Opera orange liqueur to the offer, with vermouth soon about to join as well. If you’re thinking this sounds like the makings of a good negroni, you’d be right - we were lucky enough to have Hastings Distillers make some for us at our recent Hotel Britomart event, and their take on this classic drink, which they make every part of themselves, was incredible. Rich, complex and floral - it epitomised how special a classic drink can be, when boutique artisans turn their hand to it.

We sat down with David to chat about their backgrounds, their approach to crafting spirits and why the Hawkes Bay is perfect for more than just wine and fruit.

Crane Brothers | The Artisan Spirit: Hastings Distillers
Crane Brothers | The Artisan Spirit: Hastings Distillers
What were your backgrounds prior to starting Hastings Distillers?

We had both spent many years in the wine industry, which is how we met, and we continue to work in the background in the wine industry through consultancy roles. Prior to the wine industry, Kate had worked in a number of countries as a cook; I was born into the wine world. The Hawkes Bay area is obviously famous for wine.

What was it about spirits that made you see an opportunity to do something special with them?

A number of things. Hastings is known as the fruit bowl of New Zealand so it seems an apt place to be distilling, not only gin but eau de vie and other liqueurs. We also have a long held interest in biodynamics. Great things grow here - the region is hugely diverse in terms of its macro and micro climate. Because of our time in the wine industry, we have gained a good understanding of the different regions which helps in sourcing the botanicals for our products. Hawkes Bay is the cradle of the Rudolf Steiner community, encompassing art, medicine, agriculture and schooling - so for many reasons, it’s a great place to be.

What makes your distillation process unique, and how does it affect the final product?

As we were both relatively new to gin making, we had to start from scratch. We have developed a unique, very personal way of distilling which is not necessarily how others do it. Everything we use is organic or biodynamic. We grow most of the botanicals ourselves and others are sourced from family friends so we know the provenance of everything we are using. We also are able to harvest fresh, which makes a huge difference. We have a bespoke still made by top German still-makers Arnold Holstein and we use our knowledge and wine industry-trained palates to create our products.
What are some of the signatures of Hastings Distillers gin?

Purity, vibrancy, true to style but with contemporary edge, full of personality.

What are the benefits of operating as a small boutique distillery as opposed to a larger operation?

First and foremost, we like to create and we are free to do this as we only ever have to answer to ourselves. Being small means you have to finance everything yourself, however, the benefit is that we control everything - growing, harvesting, making.

What's next for Hastings Distillers? How would you like to see the business expand or develop?

We are combining our love of wine and botanicals and focussing on vermouth - the next big thing. It makes complete sense for us. We have also just completed a very leftfield gin which tells a tale of part of this country’s history. This will be released next month. In terms of expansion and development - we only want to expand to the extent that we can still be involved with all our wonderful growers, continue to be able to grow and source our ingredients locally and to enjoy the creative process.

Thanks for your time.