The age of the aperitif

Hawke’s Bay locals Kate Galloway and David Ramonteu are known for their certified organic artisan spirits and liqueurs. However, their latest offering promises a special indulgence.

After creating organic versions of each component of the noble Negroni, East Block 200 gin, hibiscus-infused L’Opera, and a deeply rich red Rubis vermouth, this duo have created something special, recently releasing their Barrel Aged Negroni, a complex aperitif aged in French oak.

Hastings Distillers co-founder Kate, who — like partner David — has a background as a wine-maker, says that, while ageing wine in oak is relatively commonplace, crafting spirits in this way is less
well understood.

“We are one of only a handful of distillers worldwide ageing their Negroni, and there are very few who are doing so using their own handcrafted products. We are definitely unique in that respect.”

The flavours are transformed by 18 months resting in a bespoke 300-litre oak barrel. The bright orange of the L’Opera deepens into marmalade and candied peel, the vermouth is darkened and ripened, while the juniper, lavender, kaffir lime, and feijoa leaf of the gin contribute dried herb and savoury notes.

The oak ageing was an idea that struck both Kate and David as a pathway to infusing their Negroni with char, toffee, and mocha characteristics.

“As wine-makers, it was only natural to us to try the method of using French oak, and it was interesting to strike that fine balance between ageing it too much and not enough — finding just the right balance of flavour.”

It’s a labour of love for this duo, who launched Hastings Distillers in 2019 after a period of travel in Europe that reignited their interest in distillation. Three years on, and Hastings Distillers is well known both locally and internationally, with an ever-evolving collection of gins and liqueurs, each created with unique arrangements of wild foraged, organically, or biodynamically grown botanicals.

It’s Negroni that’s having a moment in 2022, though, as Kate tells us. “When we first opened our tasting room here in Hastings, we might have mixed around four Negronis a month. Now we’re making them four at a time.”

As Kate puts it, “The Negroni has long held a reputation for being sophisticated, complex, and a little bitter — much like the people who drink it.”

Words: Clare Chapman

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