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Pioneering spirit: long awaited Ignis Fatuus gin a sensory reflection of New Zealand’s rich heritage

Rambling through thick bush several years ago, Hastings Distillers founder Kate Galloway found a bleeding kauri. Discovering some gum nearby, she gave thanks to Papatūānuku before carefully wrapping the piece and taking it home, a concept gradually taking shape in her mind.

Inspired to learn more about the towering natives, which can live for over 2000 years, Kate – who established Hastings Distillers with her French partner, David Ramonteu, in 2019 -– began to research the history and lore of New Zealand kauri. “I found the stories of our gum trade and heritage really interesting,” says Kate, “and was particularly fascinated by the Māori and Dalmation gumdiggers who worked side by side in the swamps, in really tough, damp conditions, forming a strong bond as they toiled.”

It was the genesis of an idea for Ignis Fatuus (I.F for short), a premium sipping gin that pays homage to some of New Zealand’s hardiest pioneers.

Ignis Fatuus is Latin for “foolish flame” and refers to a fey light that could sometimes be seen rising from the swamp or over wetlands. Usually the result of the combustion of gas triggered by decaying plant matter, for some, it represented a fairy, ghost or elemental spirit – something to be feared, or perhaps heralding a folly or impossible hope.

Kate says it was important to capture the sensory landscape of the swamp – dark, smoky, peaty – in the I.F gin as well as story of the families who worked it, a number of whom went on to found our first wineries in west Auckland.

To create I.F – a limited edition gin available only through the Hastings Distillers website – Kate and David worked with Dr Tracey Wedge from Matakohe’s Kauri Museum to source their gum. Next, they sought an organic sauvignon blanc from which to create the base. “We approached Babich – who, for us, embody the story of those hardy gumdiggers who eventually turned their hand to wine. The Babich family are among the earliest pioneers of the winemaking industry in New Zealand. Our careers, and to a degree, our story, are a reflection of their commitment. We might never have crossed paths had it not been for our shared passion for wine.”

I.F is available for sampling as part of the distillery’s new Bespoke Tasting, which offers those with an interest in the flavour profiles and ingredients of gin, or those wanting to broaden their gin knowledge, a special 90-minute guided experience in the Hastings tasting room.

To order your bottle of I.F, please visit the website or phone 06 870 3991.

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