Dave and Jo James thought it would be fun to have an adventure, so they made gin.
“To be honest, we didn’t even know what gin was made of,” admits Jo. “But Dave is a passionate food engineer, and I really love gin, so we brought the two together.”
For novices, albeit industrious and savvy novices, the husband-and-wife team have quickly distilled an incredible success story since establishing BeGin Distilling Ltd in suburban New Plymouth in 2016, having returned to Taranaki after spending 30 years overseas carving out professional careers.
In no time, BeGin Distilling’s range of unique and seasonal Juno gins has won numerous international awards across flavour, design and branding. The company is also developing a growing export market, and there are plans to triple capacity, open a cellar door, and employ more staff.
“We asked ourselves that if we are going to move back to Taranaki, what is it that we can bring to the region that will make people proud and add another reason for visitors to come here, alongside all the great festivals, parks, the mountain and sea, and arts and hospitality scene,” Jo says.
Having established there was a growing international market for gin, with the United Kingdom recording double-digit growth in consumption, the couple decided to begin their own gin journey, but one that offered something different than the plethora of international brands on the market.
They landed on making the botanicals that give gin its flavour – the likes of juniper berries, coriander seeds, kaffir lime leaves, angelica root, lemon peel, and orris root – truly unique.
“We wanted to use local ingredients, ingredients grown here and around New Zealand,” says Jo.
“Not many international gin distilleries are really responding to seasonal changes and reflecting on that provenance of time and place. Whereas here was the opportunity to plant botanicals and grow supply chains and other industries alongside our own.”
They quickly found that Taranaki not only offered the pure, clear water and fertile soils required for their unique product, but it was also rich in business and community networks, collaboration and co-operation to help their business seed and grow.
“The big advantage of Taranaki is the connections – people know people, who know people,” says Dave.
“The talent is astounding and is evident all over Taranaki.”
“Our accountant introduced us to the person who provides our water, and our insurance agent introduced us to the person who is now growing our orris root. We met a valuable business development contact through a guy renting out a property, and from her husband we were put in touch with the guys from Rivet, who built our still – the largest spun dome copper still in New Zealand."
Dave and Jo say they are proud to be living in a region buoyant with potential and entrepreneurial people.
“Strong leadership is being shown in our region and there is a lot of support and opportunity for people like us who had an idea,” says Jo.
“Taranaki has really embraced us and a large part of our business success is because we’ve been supported by Taranaki.”