Fresh hop gin a world first
Nelson's Liquid Alchemy Distillery owners say they are going where no distillers have dared to go.
They are combining their love of hops with that of gin, creating what they believe is the world's first fresh hop gin.
Nelson Mail beer-writing duo Fritz Kuckuck and Maria Grau launched their commercial distilling business Liquid Alchemy last year.
They produce boutique spirits, and are also avid home brewers. They wanted to make use of Nelson's hops to create a "punchy" new tipple.
They are launching their 1st Cut Fresh Hop Gin - Motueka as part of the Hopstock Festival in Wellington tonight.
They distilled a fresh Motueka hop - used to make beer - and blended it with traditional gin botanicals to create the drink.
Grau said this new gin is a "combination of our love of spirits and beer. The gin blends the citrus of the hops with the pine and juniper and other spices of the gin".
Kuckuck said dried hops were sometimes used in gin as they have the citrus and piney aromas and flavours which are typical in gin. However, using fresh hops was new territory, he said.
"As far as we can tell, no one else has done it, especially with the fresh hops from here. We were really excited about the idea of creating a spirit with fresh hops and trying different hops."
They had easy access to fresh hops, since they are grown in the Nelson Tasman region. They would approach hop farmers for a variety of styles to brew with.
It was an experimental project. "As a home brewer, I know the different qualities in the hops in brewing, but I wasn't sure how they would express themselves when distilled."
With each hop variety being harvested for just a few days to a few weeks, Liquid Alchemy had to conduct a series of rapid trials with each one to determine the best method of extraction.
They also distilled with freshly dried hops and found distinct advantages from the fresh green hops.
Kuckuck said international gin bloggers have been asking about the product.
Liquid Alchemy will be going to Wellington next month to promote it at events as well.
They have made just 120 bottles of the experimental gin, with plans for other fresh hop gins under way.
Kuckuck said they are working on a series of three gins, each unique and distinct from each other. "They are different, and not exactly what you would expect from the corresponding beer profiles."
He said they had researched to see if other distillers around the world had used fresh hops in gin, and could not find anyone who had.
He had seen one company make fresh hop vodka, but it received critical reviews.
Kuckuck believed they were on the brink of a new revolution and fresh hop gin could be the next big thing in boutique spirits.