Sip Your Way Through Our Guide To Kiwi-Made Spirits

From specialty gin to artisan whiskey, amp up your next cocktail party with our curated selection of homegrown spirits.

Cardrona Distillery looking out to the mountains.

Words by: Jess Willemse

Photography: Neat Places & Supplied 

There’s nothing quite as special as cracking open a bottle of New Zealand made booze. For a small country in the corner of the globe, we seriously punch above our weight when it comes to artisanal spirits. 

Whether you enjoy an evening whiskey on the rocks or kicking off the weekend with a fresh and fruity G&T, we’re here to help get you started. Move over Smirnoff, these are 12 of the best New Zealand made spirits to spice up your top shelf.

White Sheep Co. Vodka

You can’t really get more Kiwi than sheep milk vodka. Yes, you read that right. The creative crew behind White Sheep Co. are slinging an award-winning tipple crafted with high-quality local sheep milk. Using sheep milk in the fermentation process means the vodka has a smooth and creamy finish, perfect for pairing with lemon juice, elderflower syrup and tonic.

Photo credit: White Sheep Co. 

View of the tasting area at Reefton Distilling Co.

Reefton Distilling Co. Fruit Liqueurs

10 Smith Street, Reefton

Set up in a historic building along the West Coast, Reefton Distilling Co. knows a thing or two about taking an old classic and turning it up a notch. Their catalogue of spirits boasts an impressive gin selection as well as seriously sippable fruit liqueurs. Featuring seasonal blueberries or the local West Coast Tayberry, the sweet and tangy liqueurs are perfectly paired with Prosecco over ice.

Photo credit: Reefton Distilling Co. 

Close up of a G&T.

Mount Fyffe Gin

202 McInnes Road, Kaikōura

Mount Fyffe gin is truly one of a kind. Carefully crafted on Mount Fyffe in Kaikōura, these blends are a celebration of the landscape, taking inspiration from the country slopes and nearby coast. Each bottle is completely handcrafted, from the distilling through to the labelling and packaging. The Woolshed Gin leans more to the London dry style, heroing juniper botanicals, kanuka, mint and elderflower. Meanwhile, the Shearwater bottle is a nod to the ocean, blending floral flavours with local seaweed.

Zenkuro Sake

19 Repco Boulevard, Queenstown

For a truly unique bottle of booze, add Zenkuro Sake to the shopping list. Zenkuro is the only sake brewery in New Zealand, creating magic by combining certified sake rice from Japan and pure Southern Alps water. Offering both classic sake and seasonal varieties, this Queenstown-based operation will entice you to quickly jump ship from Pinot Noir to plum sake.

Photo credit: Zenkuro 

Barrels marked with Cardrona Distillery.

Cardrona Distillery

2125 Cardrona Valley Road, Wanaka

Known as the world's southernmost distillery, the majority-female team at Cardrona Distillery sure know how to make an impact with their craft. Their latest foray into whisky is in high demand, with the three-year-old ‘Just Hatched’ bottling scooping up international awards. As their whisky matures, Cardrona will release different batches throughout the years—now that’s the definition of small-batch sips.

Close up of an orange cocktail.

Hastings Distillers L'Opera

If you’re partial to a refreshing spritz, why not opt for a local apéritif for your summer soirée. The L'Opera from Hastings Distillers is sure to bring something different to your next aperitivo hour, offering a bitter-sweet blend of organic Seville oranges, flowers and Kaweka spring water. Mix up a classic Negroni or blend with Prosecco, soda water and a slice of orange for those spritz vibes.

Bottle of TeKiwi 100% Blue Agave Tequilana Spirit on a bar.

TeKiwi 100% Blue Agave Tequilana Spirit

430 Abel Tasman Drive, Golden Bay

Who knew Golden Bay was home to New Zealand’s only local Tequila? Tequila is technically a protected term reserved for spirits produced in Mexico, so Kiwi Spirit Distillery have called this creation TeKiwi. This mega exclusive product is handcrafted using traditional methods from Blue Agave Tequilana plants, so a bottle will run you to a cool $1,000. Pop it on the birthday list (or maybe the next five birthdays).

Photo credit: TeKiwi

Man holding a big glass of whisky.

Thomson Whisky

Thomson Whisky is all about producing small-batch blends that stand the test of time. Set up in Auckland’s North West, the team has been supplying local enthusiasts with craft bottles since 2014. Their range uses local resources such as manuka for the Manuka Smoke Single Malt or New Zealand red wine barrels for the Two Tone Release. 

Bottles of Hexagon Mead on a barrel.

Hexagon Mead

The Honey Shed, 8 Rakanui Road, Peketa, Kaikōura

Best enjoyed with a cheese board at the end of the night, Hexagon Mead is a sip rich in both history and flavour. As one of the oldest drinks in the world, mead is aged in oak barrels, a process that amplifies the honey’s flavour and depth. The team at Mountainhoney Kaikōura have been dabbling in the art of mead for more than 50 years, so their bottles are tried and tested.

Man making Juno Gin.

Juno Gin

16D Sunley Street, Westown, New Plymouth

Putting New Plymouth on the map for distilling is Juno Gin. The husband and wife team behind the bottle bring together their scientific backgrounds and love for gin to create Taranaki’s favourite sip. Showcasing locally sourced botanicals and water from Mt Taranaki, this is as pure as it gets.

Bottle of Honest Rum with a glass beside it.

Honest Rum

Honest Rum is the new kid on the block, the result of two friends with time on their hands during a global lockdown. The team behind the brand set out to create a rum that excited them, and ended up with a six spice blend of tonka beans, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and orange. Sip it neat, over ice or with soda and lime—you’ll love it either way.

Photo credit: Honest Rum