Where it began

A few factors shaped our decision to begin producing gin. Seeking a better work/life balance, we opted to leave Auckland and settle permanently in Whitianga, one of our favourite holiday destinations in the Coromandel, the other place we spend plenty of quality time with friends and family is Pauanui. We already own an ice-manufacturing business in Auckland and expanded the operation with a similar facility in Whitianga, which now incorporates our distillery to make this operation a more diverse business.

“We believe producing a quality gin is a bit like the passage of life,” says Chris. “There are multiple twists and turns and unexpected diversions along the route, but you never stop learning and you’re always richer for the experience. The journey moulds us as individuals, each with our own, unique character. Similarly, we like to think the lessons of the gin-making journey are reflected in our Old Mate.”

The real trigger for establishing Old Mate was a challenge delivered a few years ago at a Pauanui beach party. “We’ve always been partial to a good G&T”, we said, and the conversation turned to the subtleties and complexities of different brands.  Someone said – “analysing and judging is all very well, but can you make gin?”  Well of course we can, we said indignantly – and we couldn’t back down after that!”

Still unsure of what we had committed ourselves to, fate lent a hand in the form of Covid and lockdown. With limited demand for ice, we found ourselves at a loose end. We resurrected the gin concept and enrolled in an online course – a Gin Immersion Workshop. It proved invaluable during the steep learning curve that followed.  Perfecting the product took much trial and error – with plenty of input from a discerning tasting panel, members of the local community, family and friends.

As with many start-up enterprises, progress wasn’t easy. Scaling-up the operation was a daunting step and demanded a considerable leap of faith. Having started it on the kitchen bench-top, things eventually migrated to the garage. But we soon realised it was time to invest in handmade, alembic copper stills (sourced from Portugal), so we moved the distillery to bigger, commercial premises alongside our Whitianga ice business. 

Producing a gin that embodies the ‘flavour’ of the Coromandel, is the culmination of a dream – particularly as we both enjoy gin.

“Chris has always been involved with handmade crafts – whether building surfboards or manufacturing soaps, candles, designer cocktail ice and flavoured ice. Producing a unique flavoured gin is another element of the same creative approach. It’s definitely a far more subtle and demanding process, but the reward is far greater. 

“We’re confident Old Mate brings a different dimension to the New Zealand spirits market.”

Trust your mates

Why “Old Mate” you ask …. “We’ve all got an Old Mate – the girl or bloke you went to school with, Vicki at the tennis club, your trusty seven iron, the cheeky fantail at the bach, your lucky toweling fishing hat, your faithful dog, or the old pickup truck.  They are always there, always reliable, perfectly comfortable, but never taken for granted”.

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