Whisky and More blog Lighthouse Gin - great kiwi product



There is a lot of water between Martinborough and the United States, but hopes are high that the first shipment of Wairarapa-made Lighthouse Gin will make waves when it hits American shores.

About 600 six-packs of the spirit are on their way to US restaurants and stores this month, with a new label and the financial muscle of US businessman Bill Foley behind it.

Foley's NZX-listed Foley Family Wines company bought the brand and recipe for the gin six months ago from Greytown distiller Neil Catherall.

Catherall still acts as a consultant and his assistant Rachel Hall continues to make the spirit by hand on the premises of Martinborough Vineyard.

Since the purchase, however, a top US designer had been brought in to help with its marketing in the US.

Foley Family Wines' chief executive Mark Turnbull said the designer had done a great job with the new label inspired by local landmark, the Cape Palliser lighthouse.

He said Lighthouse faced steep competition in the US, but it had a great story, using hints of kawakawa and water from a spring on Foley's Wharekauhau Lodge property in the distilling process.

"It's very much a gin for the discerning gin drinker," Turnbull said.

Excise tax was "horrendous" on a bottle of gin, but the brand had remained true to its roots, he said.

"A lot of people try to cut back the alcohol content to reduce the price, but Neil's recipe has to be at 42 per cent."

Naturally the gin would be on hand at Wharekauhau, where there were often wealthy individuals, he said.

Turnbull said NZX disclosure rules meant Foley Wines had to be careful giving out information like Lighthouse Gin's sales targets in the US.

The hand-made nature of the product meant production could not be cranked up too fast.

It did, however, have the advantage of being able to tap into Foley's distribution network in the US, where the billionaire owns a string of Californian wineries. In New Zealand, Foley also holds a half share in wine distributor EuroVintage.

"And that's half the battle in New Zealand, being able to distribute your product," Turnbull said. 



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