Terry Knight can raise a toast to success after releasing a tequila he has painstakingly produced in Golden Bay, near Nelson.
His TeKiwi Blue Agave has been a work in progress for 16 years, and Knight is thrilled with the response it received at its launch in Nelson.
"It was incredibly positive, no-one else produces it here, so that made it really special," said Knight, who owns eight hectares of blue agave plants in Golden Bay.
His Takaka business, Schnapp Dragon, offers a wide range of spirits and liqueurs, including whiskey, gin and an award-winning rum that took out third place in the internationally recognised Barbados Rum Fest in 2000.
Knight prides his business on being entirely locally made.
"We plant here, the bottles are hand blown here, the bottle stoppers are made from manuka wood found here, it's all produced here," he said.
"By making the drinks here we aren't copying the rest of the world, we are making drinks that make up our nation."
To mark the launch, Nelson art glass artists Marie and Ola Hoglund were commissioned to create a special bottle. The first limited edition bottle was auctioned in Nelson for $400 and the second for $450.
Knight plans to release 500 bottles of the agave spirit TeKiwi a year, to be distributed across New Zealand. It will sell for $300-$350 a bottle.
He has spent the past three years refining the cooking and processing technique, which involves using a river stone-lined 2.5-metre long steam oven to cook the plants, extracting the juices using a wringer washing machine.
Knight is creating a new 8ha plantation on his and his partner Rachel Raine's property on the site of the old Golden Bay winery at Motupipi. He will build a new processing plant and distillery. "There are only four true distilleries in New Zealand so it's pretty unique," said Knight.
He said his priority was to create a foundation for his market in New Zealand. "There is a belief that you haven't made it unless you have exported your products, but I'm not interested in that, New Zealand is a great market and is just as good as overseas," he said. They plan to take the first limited edition bottles to Queenstown, Auckland and Wellington.