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Rebuilding the West Coast, one drop (dram) at a time

Rebuilding the West Coast, one drop (dram) at a time!

It rains a lot on the West Coast, some might say that is a bad thing, but as Andrew Robb, Chairman of the West Coast Governance Group stated in his foreword of the Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Development Action Plan 2017*Ref1 “The West Coast is full of potential. Many of the characteristics of the region that have traditionally been seen as barriers will be the keys to our future success.” (2017, Pg2) His foreword continued “This is the time for us as West Coasters to grasp these opportunities, to celebrate and market our identity, tell the world our positive stories and that the region is open for business.” (Robb, 2017, Pg2)

One small company had already begun to take such action, creating their own business opportunity out of one regional characteristic - copious rainfall! For the entrepreneurs behind the Reefton Distilling Co., those raindrops are heaven sent!

A small company with big dreams

Reefton Distilling Co. is a local West Coast start-up with a big vision. A team of likeminded individuals who are passionate about creating high quality spirits, passionate about Reefton, and passionate about contributing to the revitalisation of the West Coast.

Located in the heart of Reefton, on the wild West Coast of New Zealand they take their inspiration from Reefton’s rich history of adventure, innovation, and gold, they see it as the perfect place for making untamed spirits. Their market research has shown that there is an opportunity to create a true ‘grain to glass’ distillery in New Zealand, an offering which will truly set them apart.

A “grain to glass” distillery

The ethos of a “grain to glass” distillery is to track the entire process from selecting the barley and other grains, harvesting the water, to brewing the wash (distillers’ beer), to distilling their own spirit, before making the all-important decision about when to ‘make the cut’ maximising the flavour profile of the spirit. They believe that only by following this process can you truly create an authentic spirit. The Company aims to begin production in mid-2018, in a purpose-built distillery right in the heart of Reefton.

The “Water of Life”

The word Whisky comes from the Gaelic “"uisge beatha"” meaning the “Water of Life”. Co-Founder and Head Distiller Sean Whitaker said, “The West Coast is blessed with plentiful supplies of both rain and groundwater from pristine sources, it seems fitting that this rainfall and quality of water will go into our stills, adding to a depth of flavour that we believe will be unmatched.” He went on to add, “We’ve identified several local natural water sources, each with their own chemical characteristics that will contribute to the distinctiveness of the spirits we produce. We have also received written approval from the Regional Council that our water take is a permitted activity."

Alongside their whisky offering, Reefton Distilling Co. will also produce a premium range of gin, vodka and liqueurs. Their aim is to be a leading producer of premium spirits in Oceania and to produce the best quality distilled spirits in New Zealand, using locally sourced ingredients where possible (water, grains, botanicals, and aromatics) organic ingredients will also be used where available, with an aim of using only certified organic ingredients.

Sean advised how each batch of spirits will be individually labelled to enable customers to trace the provenance of every ingredient from the water, to the grain, to the aromatics, botanicals, and barrels. He went on to add that “This premium product will be complemented by a world class brand which draws on the purity and ruggedness of the West Coast region”.

The West Coasters behind the brand names

Creating a modern tradition in an age-old industry, Reefton Distilling Co. is drawing on local characters of old to build their brands.

George Fairweather Moonlight – a legendary gold prospector is the inspiration behind “Moonlight Creek™” Whisky and Bourbon.
“Little Biddy™” premium Gin – pays homage to Bridget Goodwin, also known as “Little Biddy” or “Biddy of the Buller”, 1813-1899. Bridget Goodwin, defined the word 'rebel', a well-known whisky drinking, smoking, 4ft tall, female gold prospector.

Raising the capital

Of course, although dreams are free, turning those dreams into reality requires thought, focus, planning, research, and significant funding. However, after 18 months of preparation and sheer hard work the team at Reefton Distilling Co. are now well on track to begin their story and add to the rich history of West Coast Pioneers.

Reefton Distilling Co. is raising up to $1.5m for a shareholding of 42.9% at a pre-money valuation of $2m. The funds will be used for the fit out of the distillery, equipment, staff, and working capital. Director and Co-founder Patsy Bass noted that “we expect that we will need to raise additional capital to scale up operations further after the first 12-18 months of production”.

They already have commitments from a number of large investors who will also be actively involved in supporting the business and a crowdfunding equity offer is currently underway. When asked the reason for raising funds by this method, Patsy said, “Because we want our community to own this business and share in its success.” The plans have now been laid, learn more of their story at

In the first year of operation the company will employ up to 6 people, including the two directors and co-founders Patsy Bass and Sean Whitaker, with further job openings being made as the business scales up.

To support the development of the distillery, implement best practice and the preparation of the initial spirit runs the company have arranged to employ the services of a number of consultants who will support them during the setup, commissioning and initial production phase.

Bass concluded “We’ll begin by selling directly to the New Zealand market through on site sales at our distillery and through our website, as well as selling wholesale to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. We’ll then turn our attention to Australia and beyond.” ENDS

*REF1: West Coast Economic Development Action Plan 2017

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