Lighthouse Gin readies new space

New Zealand-based distiller Lighthouse Gin is moving into a larger site and increasing capacity while maintaining a handcrafted approach.

Founded in 2005, Lighthouse Gin is finalising a move to Martinbourough’s Runholder building, a multi-purpose hospitality space which also features a restaurant and two wineries. The new space measures 2,486 square feet and will include a distillery, bottling room, and warehouse. 

The distilling space is approximately 516 square feet, with a new 700-litre custom-built Carl still in place. Rachel Hall, who is the first woman in New Zealand to hold the title of head distiller, said that she recently made juniper-flavoured water as a test run, but that distilling in New Zealand requires additional measures.

“We do get a lot of earthquakes, so we need to get the seismic restraints completed and a couple of other things put in place,” she said. “We’re almost there.”

While Lighthouse is set to increase capacity, the brand is committed to maintaining a craft approach, emphasising the use of native Yen Ben lemons. Hall makes all of the gin herself, taking over the role of head distiller in 2014, after joining the brand in 2010 and learning under founder Neil Catherall. The new distilling space will give her more breathing room and allow for a more hospitable visitor experience.

“At the moment, it’s all in one room, it’s very cramped,” Hall explained of the previous distillery. “I think people see the brand or they see the bottle, but they don’t understand the craftsmanship and the work behind it. So now we can actually showcase that.” 

The Runholder building officially opened on 16 November 2023, with gin production slated to start in early 2024. Tours and tastings will be offered, with Hall noting a growing interest in gin among New Zealanders. “There’s the people that come in, and they may be more there for the wine, so, they’re not sure about it, and then they’ll try it, and it really opens their eyes to something new,” she said. “The gin scene in New Zealand’s actually been pretty good for about five years now.”

Foley Family Wines purchased Lighthouse Gin in 2014 as a part of its ongoing effort to build a well-rounded spirits portfolio. In May 2023, the Sonoma-based family-owned wine company purchased a distillery in Minden, Nevada. What was known as the Benton Distillery is now called Minden Mill Distilling, with Foley Family Wines likewise acquiring the existing inventory of Bourbon, rye and single malt whiskey.

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Author: Ted Simmons