All our spirits are made with rainwater harvested from Mount Cargill and carefully filtered at our distillery to reflect the local terroir. Where possible, our botanicals are sourced within New Zealand and the Pacific region. We also make the most of all our own waste products - Try our Distillers’ Trub instead of starter culture to make your own sough-dough style bread – available for a gold coin donation and we’ll give you a recipe to get you started!
Boiler suits, four layers of merino and the sheer physicality of distilling, Sue Stockwell and Jenny McDonald assure me there is nothing glamorous or romantic about the life of a distiller some days! But saving 120kg of bread waste from the region per week to make award winning and top-quality spirits make it all worthwhile any day. It was an idea that was thought up just before the first NZ covid lock down, how could they reduce a problem going to the landfill. How hard could it be?! Everything is made from scratch, including the alcohol base spirit. Great advice and support from brewers like local legend Richard Emerson and others, gave Jenny and Sue the confidence that they were onto something good. With much problem-solving, creating, and trial and error Dunedin Craft Distillers was born. “Brewers have been delightful and interested in what we do”. They must be doing something right as the have a diverse customer range who know their gin and spirits. In just over a year and a bit they have already garnered silver medals at the NZ Spirit Awards for their Naked Spirit (2022) and Cacao Vodka (2021) and a bronze for The Bay Gin. Their Dunedin Dry Gin is the top seller. They received a commendation in the Keep Dunedin Beautiful Awards for the Sustainable Business Award this year, further recognition of doing good.
Back tracking a bit, Sue moved here in the mid 1970’s from the Midlands in the UK and has an extensive career in food service and nutrition. While Jenny was brought up in Kenya and the UK arriving in NZ in the early 1970’s. She has had a diverse career, initially training as a medical doctor before moving into video production and computing. Jenny worked as an educational technology educator and researcher at the University of Otago for many years. Sue and Jenny’s complimentary skillsets were valuable in getting the venture off the ground. The exposure and profile they get by being at the Otago Farmers Market (where they enjoy the nice supportive environment) helps enormously with testing new ideas and getting to know their customers and their tastes. Over winter their Mulled Gin has been popular, especially as it is enjoyed warm and is a lower 8% alcohol by volume. They are always looking at ways to adapt and work in with our local environment and they have improved and tweaked their recipes over time, giving them the opportunity to create small batch specialities like their Wild Dunedin Gin (featuring local little neck clams and wild fennel) and The Bay Gin (featuring local bay leaf and lemon). A five hundred litre still is arriving for the next phase along with other rather impressive equipment to allow greater volumes without so much hard physical labour and they are enjoying their cool new premises in the old wharf area by the Otago Harbour. They look to scale up cautiously and have many exciting ideas in the pipeline. They also stock in a few speciality stores and at neighbouring restaurants Plato and Harbourside Grill which feature Dunedin Craft Distillers product on their cocktail menu’s. Other discerning cocktail bars in Dunedin stock their premium product.
Being conscious of waste underpins everything. Waste is kept at an absolute minimum. Any by-product was used for compost at Blueskin Bay Nursery but as the volume has increased it is now used as feed for dairy cows to eat the fibre and protein. Harraways oat husks are also used. Three loaves of surplus bread go into 750ml of spirit! Pure rain water is sourced from Mt Cargill and is filtered and UV treated. The 750ml glass bottles are made from recycled glass. Plastic tasting sample cups are used at the Market (practical in an outdoor environment) but are sterilised and re-used. The by-product of the distilling process creates trub which is packaged up when available for dedicated bakers to use as a starter for sourdough and baking (recipe ideas are available too). The labels on the bottles are made from recycled sugar cane and are made by transTasman manufacturer Hally Labels. Being local and sustainable are key to Jenny and Sue’s business model. Good news for those who are gluten intolerant is that gluten from bakery products does not survive the distillation. And while their products are “not a guzzle and go” but rather a “nice to have” and “but not a necessity” according to Jenny, I think many of their customers will beg to differ, their future is looking exciting!
Favourite tipples: Jenny – Dunedin Dry Gin. Sue – The Bay Gin.