Friends of the Botanic Gardens are selling gin, made with rose hips from the rose gardens, to raise money for a new interactive science centre at the Begonia House Pictured; Mazz Scannell
It’s one thing to be led down the garden path, drinking it is a whole other experience.
Down the Garden Path gin, as you might expect from its name and its origins, packs a distinctive floral punch.
Featuring rosehips specially harvested from the Wellington’s Lady Norwood Rose Gardens (including from the heritage rose Sparkler), native kawakawa and traditional botanicals the gin has been developed by Friends of the Wellington Botanic Garden in collaboration with Kāpiti distillers The Bond Store.
A portion of each sale goes towards a new science and discovery/interpretation centre in the Garden’s popular Begonia House.
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Friends’ president Mazz Scannell said the centre would help provide educational support in the hope of encouraging a greater understanding of New Zealand’s native plants and ecosystem. “It is about bringing science to the people, bringing science down to a touchable level.”
It will lean heavily on interactive technology to connect people to their immediate surroundings. “But it won’t be Disneyland,” Scannell said.
The aromatic gin is a salute to both domestic gardens and the beloved rose gardens.
“It’s not a new idea. Kew Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne do their own gin, but it’s definitely a unique blend. You can’t buy rosehips in New Zealand, so unless there’s other distilleries picking their own, then ours would be the only rosehip gin.
“I had been talking to quite a few people before launching it, and it seemed like people have got bored with book groups and they’re now doing gin groups.”
That observation is borne out in the stats. No longer the purview of the blue-rinse, bridge-playing set gin has, like craft beer before it, taken on a trajectory of its own. Small batch, artisanal, gin production is one of the fastest growing categories in the spirits industry with about 85 per cent of distilleries here thought to be specialising in gin.
Since its low-key launch in October, Down the Garden Path gin has become a top-shelf seller. Chief distiller Bec Kay believes its success is driven by the public’s love for native gin and the act of giving back.
“It’s been a real labour of love creating a gin that reflects the Botanic Garden. Incorporating the rose hips was something new for us, and we’ve been blown away by the love people have for it. Supporting a project that gives back to nature and educates people about our environment has also been a huge drawcard.
The Friends’ activities (including guided walks for botany students) have so far raised $12,000 for the interpretation centre, part of a $7 million-plus renovation of the Begonia House. Scannell reckoned they would need between $50,000 and $100,000 and with that in mind they have also started producing a Down the Garden Path olive oil, with the next year’s batch expected to include fruit picked from the gardens’ olive trees.
The labels on both the gin and oil echo the floral design which features on a series of tiles set in the main sealed paths that lead to the city, another of the group’s initiatives.
And Scannell’s top tip for a tipple. “Ice and a bit of lavender. ”It’s quite a complicated gin. It has eight botanicals, so it’s got a nice depth. You don’t need to add anything else to it.”
Gindulgence, a celebration of gin, and even more gin, is being held at Frank Kitts Park on 28 and 29 January.
Gardens Magic is on at the Soundshell at Botanic Garden Ki Paekākā, each night until 29 January.
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