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Martinborough’s recovery spirit

Chris Reid in the new distillery on Todds Rd, just outside Martinborough. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

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For Chris Reid of Reid+Reid, a Martinborough-based craft distillery, covid-19 has proven a bit of a hiccup.

Late last year, he and brother Stew broke ground on their new distillery on Todds Rd which would see them expand their gin-making operation.

They had hoped to open by March but a growing number of covid-19 cases in New Zealand and a shortage of hand sanitiser meant they instead turned to making “hand rub”, alongside many other boutique distilleries.

“It was the least we could do,” Reid said.

Several hundred litres were donated to organisations and frontline workers such as the South Wairarapa testing sites, the Martinborough Medical Centre, Wharekaka Rest Home, and several wineries, who continued to bring the harvest in while observing social distancing.

Covid-19 caused several other disruptions with the lockdown delaying their build process and also putting off the opening of the attached bar.

About 30 per cent of their business focused on duty free sales so this was also hit hard by the pandemic.

However, things are looking up with Reid saying domestic market sales this year are up on last year.

“People have a little more time to look into things.”

He said the covid-19 response had also seen an increase in people wanting to support New Zealand made and artisanal products.

Gin had also undergone a bit of a renaissance in recent years, he said.

“Gin is our biggest product. It’s quite easy and versatile.”

Reid+Reid gins are produced with three native botanicals, kawakawa, manuka, and horopito.

The brothers also make a vermouth and Aperitivo liqueur, producing about 20,000 bottles every year.

The new distillery, which includes two copper pot stills, will allow them to produce four times as much as in their old space.

It’s taken about two years to get to this stage.

“If you are coming from the city, you kind of want to be in the country.

“We were looking around in Martinborough, and this [land] wasn’t very suitable [for growing].”

Originally, it was used as a horse paddock, but now it houses the 300m2 distillery.

The brothers have also planted up the one-hectare property with a mix of pinot noir grape varieties, citrus trees, and native botanicals.

Reid was excited for when they would be able to open the space properly.

For now, it’s open by appointment-only for tastings in groups of 10 until the country returns to normal.

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