A desire to return from Christchurch to her home town of Reefton and boost business in the area, has led Patsy Bass to start an innovative distillery, focussed on Reefton’s rich history.
Patsy began brainstorming ideas with people in her professional network and in the community.
The aim was to establish a business that would create jobs for Reefton, create a tourist attraction to bring people into the town and also keep both herself and her husband busy.
The result was Reefton Distilling Co.
Reefton Distilling Co. take their inspiration from Reefton’s rich history of adventure, innovation and gold.
They see the town as the perfect place for making fresh, handcrafted spirits and have set up their distillery and visitor experience in one of Reefton’s original historic buildings.
The West Coast is a region that has struggled in recent years. Patsy says they want to do all they can to contribute to the revitalisation.
They hope New Zealanders will back them by buying their products; knowing in doing so they are supporting employment in the region.
They hope their venture, the distillery and their visitor experiences will help ‘put Reefton on the map’ as a tourist destination.
New visitor experiences
Reefton Distilling Co. have drawn on local characters of old and their stories.
The ‘Distillery Tour & Complimentary Tasting’ experience offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about Reefton Distilling Co.’s journey and how they craft their products, before enjoying a complimentary tasting.
This experience also allows visitors to share in the history of local legends Bridget Goodwin, also known as ‘Little Biddy’ or ‘Biddy of the Buller’ and gold prospector George Fairweather Moonlight.
The Little Biddy Gin range pays homage to Bridget Goodwin the well-known pipe-smoking, gin-toting, 4-foot-tall goldminer who travelled to the West Coast from Ireland to prospect for gold in the 1860’s.
George Fairweather Moonlight was the first to discover Moonlight Creek, an area famed for some of the largest gold nuggets ever found in New Zealand. Moonlight Creek is also a source of ultra-pure water, located just 40 minutes from the distillery.
It seems fitting that Reefton Distilling Co.’s Moonlight Creek Whisky, should pay tribute to this special place.
Building goes full circle
Built in the 1870’s, their new location the original Haralds general store, sold shoes, haberdashery and distilled vinegar. There was an old gin bottle under the floor when it was being refitted for the lease.
This is now on display and in some way it seems that events have come full circle.
The building has now been carefully restored to accommodate Reefton Distilling Co’s. working distillery, tasting bar and retail store.
Moving into this building has added to Reefton Distilling Co.’s story, enabled them to get their Little Biddy Gin, Wild Rain Vodka and Reefton Distilling Co. seasonal fruit liqueurs into production, on the shelves and on sale.
The eureka moment
In the weeks before the opening of their building on Smith Street, Patsy was planting up the barrels outside the distillery and watched a group of local people stop to look at “George” the 1800L traditional copper pot still (affectionately named after George Fairweather Moonlight).
She then overheard them introducing him to their friends and their children,
this is George, he’s come to make some jobs in Reefton, for people like Mum and Dad.”
This was the point that Patsy said that she knew all the hard work was going to be worthwhile.
“We wanted to create jobs for local people and a business that would also become a tourist attraction, giving people a reason to come and stay in Reefton.
“We have achieved this, we currently employ four staff, have volunteer and contract labour and we envisage that number growing significantly if things track as expected.”
Patsy says, “Reefton Distilling Co.’s launch has gone ridiculously well since our pre-launch to shareholders and we’ve been flat out trying to keep up with demand – which is a very nice problem to be wrestling with.”
Immense local support
Patsy says that the business has received enormous support from the local community many of whom have rallied around to help in any way they can.
For example, helping to wrangle their large 1800 Litre traditional copper pot still in through the window of their historic premises on Smith Street.
The company are committed to using local businesses wherever possible and have been ably supported thus far.
There is an amazing skillset in Reefton and whatever needed doing, there always seemed to be a local person or business with the ability to assist.
there is something about the spirit of the Coast and its people, they have always had belief in themselves, a can-do attitude and they are not afraid to get behind a new idea.”
Reefton was an entrepreneurial and prosperous place in its early days and Patsy hopes that they can add the success story of Reefton Distilling Co. to the history books.
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For more information:
The Distillery is open seven days a week from 10am until 4pm except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, ANZAC Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday – visitors are advised to book experiences in advance – bookings for all Reefton Distilling Co. Experiences are available through their website
You can also contact:
Patsy Bass, Managing Director E: [email protected] Ph: 03 732 7083