Bewitch Your Senses With The Spirits Of Akaroa
Nestled upon the shore of the extinct volcanic caldera lies the romantic French colonial village of Akaroa. A peaceful paradise and playground of the locals, in this tourist haven lies a hidden garden of Eden where the coven craft alchemy and play with magic. Peer inside the distillery door of the Akaroa Craft Distillery Tasting House to find a bouquet of smells and a fountain of flavours to charm even the most stubborn tastebuds.
A spell is cast upon guests when crossing the threshold at 45 Rue Lavaud. Enchantment is in the air as people happily chatter and cackle, tonics bubble and wafting botanicals, herbs and spices fill the room. Submit to temptation and explore the range of locally made spirits, all while unravelling the secrets of the distillery’s unique story and vision.
Each potion is introduced like the hero of a fable with their own unique backstory reflecting the mystery and alure of how they came about. Every variety is a bottled taste of this place whether it’s the kelp gathered in Wainui, lemon verbena from Phytofarm in Little River, blossoms from Little Akaloa, and wild thyme foraged in the bush across the headland - these flavours are uniquely Banks Peninsula. Locally grown grapes, lemons, and other botanicals provide the backbone for these handcrafted gins making them a true invocation of this enchanting place.
The alchemy results in Aotearoa’s most spellbinding and intoxicating liquors and after brief histories of the operation and what makes up these fine potions, you’ll be frothing for a cure of your thirst. The Hector’s French Farm Petit Pinot perfectly encapsulates its namesake, a local wine acting as the backbone to this fan favourite. Hector’s Long Harbour Ocean Wash is a surprisingly dry concoction with a light and mineral finish, enticing patrons to quaff slowly, allowing the individual flavours to seduce the taste buds with each sip.
Mixing it up is Elephant Rock Vodka, gifted its name from Elephant Head found on the Akaroa Heads greeting you as you enter the harbour. The flooded caldera feeds this infusion with its botanicals of Bull Kelp balanced perfectly with zesty orange peel culminating in an unexpectedly enchanting blend.
Last, but certainly not least, is the limited edition Akaroa French Festival Spiced Walnut and Honey. The small batch gin honours the Akaroa French fest which celebrates the township’s French colonial history, and tastes precisely what it sounds like. Blended with local honey, the walnuts assist endemic botanicals to create a sweet and silky elixir with a spicey warmth. Buying any of these bottles to take as a souvenir comes with the added bonus of giving back to the protection and preservation of the Hector’s Dolphin, one of the world’s smallest and most endangered sea mammals and a prized taonga, or treasure, of Akaroa.
After sniffing and sipping at each drop on the tasting board, set your eyes on a splosh worth savouring. Enliven the senses with an intoxicating array of tonics for those seeking simplicity or indulge in one of their masterful concoctions on their cocktail list that invokes a sense of discovery. Sherbet bubbles at the edge of the glass as berries somersault in the absolute must-try Fisherman’s Bay Raspberry Rush. With one of the best grazing platters you may ever lay eyes on, the Akaroa Distillery Tasting House is well worth wistfully spending the afternoon in the sun-soaked garden bar sanctuary out of the cooler, coastal air.
From the highlight of your trip across the region to accommodating and impeccable service, a budget-friendly price point, great nosh and a garden bar worth whisking the day away, this is one for your bucket list.
Speaking of iconic must-dos, you can now take flight with Garden City Helicopters and experience the taste and tales of the Akaroa harbour told in gin with Akaroa Craft Distillery. Take in unique views of Canterbury and Banks Peninsula from the air, look down on gathering grounds of the many botanicals that make up the flavours of the gins on offer.
A short drive from the hilltop helipad to the Akaroa Craft Distillery Tasting House, the tasting experience is followed by a food platter between two people whilst enjoying a carefully crafted gin and tonic, and gifted with a complimentary bottle per couple.
No matter how you get there, via air, sea or by road, it’s a spellbinding experience any way you slice it.