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Midlife gin crisis pays off for duo

Husband and wife team Chris Barber and Bec Kay at the Greytown Country Market. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

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A husband and wife team with a Wairarapa base went head to head against each other to discover the perfect ratio of juniper, alcohol, and kawakawa leaves for their homemade gin.

The competition resulted in a bronze medal and gin that is very popular at the Greytown Country Market.

Bec Kay concedes that her husband Chris Barber’s combination was best.

It was his idea to try the peppery kawakawa from their Wairarapa farm with their imported sacks of Macedonian junipers.

The gin and limoncello producers won gold for their limoncello and bronze for their gin at the 2019 Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition.

The gin’s kawakawa is grown and harvested on the couple’s Blairlogie-Langdale Rd farm in Masterton, and taken to their Kapiti distillery.

They quit their jobs two years ago in their early 40s and bought the Koast Limoncello company in Kapiti.

“I’d been working as a nurse in Wellington for over 10 years and Chris was a business consultant,” Kay said. “He told me one day that he had quit his job.

“I was over it all too, so that was it, we were both unemployed and looking for a business to buy.”

They changed the name of the business to Koakoa – te reo Maori for happiness.

“Because I like gin and as we were enjoying making limoncello, we decided to make gin but knew it would need to be special because so many varieties were coming on to the market.

“We were determined to do something unique.”

They decided to call the gin The Bond Store because the taxation on alcohol sales used to operate in a bond accredited system, where the seller’s store was registered or bonded to the government.

“We pay plenty of tax and excise with customs regulations and thought this name summed it up.”

The spirit producing couple are happily competing with each other again to discover the best recipe for their Seville Orange Gin which is apparently, “nearly there”.

“I’m ready to go nuts on this one,” Barber said. “I’m sure I’ll win against Kay.”

“You haven’t even tasted mine yet,” Kay retorted.

Koakoa has doubled in size over the past 12 months.

At a recent Greytown market, the Koakoa stall was busier than every other stall around it and plenty of bottles were sold.

“We love coming here, our products are popular in Wairarapa,” Kay said.

“You need to get the price right so it can be served over a bar or taken to a party or home.

“We are not priced as top-shelf, but we did just beat Bombay Sapphire gin at the New Zealand Spirits Awards so are chuffed with it all to be honest.”

Koakoa Limoncello and The Bond Store Gin has gained the NZ Fernmark Accreditation, which is the official recognition of a product’s connection to New Zealand.


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