Traditionally more well-known across the world for its wine and craft beer than its spirits, things are starting to change for New Zealand following on from the naming of Scapegrace Gin as Best Gin at the International Spirits Awards last year. Whilst Scapegrace has rightly garnered a lot of attention in the global press following its triumph, they are not the only gin brand from this side of the world doing exciting and exemplary things. Enter, Hidden World Gin.
Hidden World Gin’s master blender, Anthony Sexton, has been distilling for six years now at Vaione Gin, following in the footsteps of his father before him. He met Epic Beer’s head brewer, Luke Nicholas, around four years ago and – no doubt bonding over passion and category-disrupting insanity – the pair decided to release a few products together, including Anthony’s so-called “gimmick gins – Monster J and Gin IPA”, and Luke’s GINIPA (read more about Epic Beer and this peculiar beer here). Since then and following on from long research days upstairs in their 260-bottle-strong Gin Library, as well as many sober and drunken experiments (some culminating in moments of genius, others in…trying to distil Cuban cigars), over 10 Hidden World Gin have been born.
Using a number of techniques ranging from Carterhead distillation to boutique garni steeping and maceration, Anthony is able to capture multiple essences of his chosen botanicals, expertly blending them together in his workshop in Auckland to create bizarre and beautiful gins that the world should know about.
TASTING NOTES – HIDDEN WORLD GIN
Created as an homage to the Maori sense of guardianship over the land and New Zealand’s rich biodiversity, Guardian is a reasonably traditional gin made using a number of local botanicals. Native pepper trees, Kawakawa and Horopito, add intense spice to the juniper-forward base. Lemon and lime rind are heavily felt and there is a pine-y menthol that comes through at the end, adding a herbal element to the tickling pepper.
We often take issue with floral gins as they lack balance and come across like potpourri. However, Anthony has formed a wonderful recipe, where pineapple and lemongrass remove those soapy notes to create a Summery drink full of tropical fruit, rose and lavender that is fresh and fragrant without making one think they’ve walked into the powder room of an ageing Parisian dowager.
HOT CROSS BUN
This unusual gin was born out of the season (Easter was approaching) and a love of the flavours in a hot cross bun. Instead of distilling an actual bun, Anthony elected to work with cinnamon, nutmeg, sultanas and orange peel, resulting in a stronger sense of each and something that truly resembles the pastry. Almost brioche-like in taste, there is a yeast-y, raisin character that works together with heap of cinnamon, nutmeg and aromatic orange peel to create a fantastic sipping gin.
Unapologetically all about that citrus. Sharp and tangy limes, supple squeezed lemons, and juicy orange work against a background of juniper and light spice. Simple yet complex, there is so much to this one that comes through over time. Sit with a glass of this on a sun lounger and life’s problems will seem of no consequence.
The taste of driving around the winding New Zealand roads with the window down. Pine’s menthol nose with something resembling thyme, paired with Kauri tree gum and bay leaf – this is the taste of the local forest. There is a lot of flavour in this one, which is why it is a divider, however, if you love the herbaceous and aren’t afraid of gins that pack a punch, this is one to try, on its own, in a martini with a twist of lime, or possibly in a Gimlet.
The other mad “gimmick gin” created by Anthony and Epic Beer’s Luke that brings hops together with juniper in an unlikely marriage. Luke has created a matching GINIPA Beer that is more gin that beer, in the way that Hidden World’s spirit seems to be more beer than gin! Never afraid of big flavours, this gin has a hoppy head on its shoulders without being overly hot-headed. Juniper is still present but the floor is given to the aromatic and refreshing hops, that oddly work with the berry.
Hidden World’s answer to Hendrick’s. Responding to people’s interest in cucumber gin, Anthony decided to make a “BIG cucumber gin” with juicy orange, cucumber, juniper and coriander seed. Unlike Hendrick’s, where the cucumber is mainly felt through the garnish, Hidden World’s Cucumber Gin has an inescapable cucumber hit, seconded by coriander-forward, citric notes. This would be absolutely gorgeous with a light tonic on a hot Summer’s day.
An adult, spiced gin packed with cardamom, Szechuan pepper, coriander, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. Hugely fragrant on the nose without the cloying sweetness often added to such drinks, this is an exercise in gastronomic spice sorcery. Drink this neat or with a very light tonic so that the botanicals can truly sing.
The “J” in the name stands for “juniper” and that is all that you will find in this bizarre gin! No other botanicals, no nothing. Just juniper. Anthony created seven separate distillations of juniper via various steeping and infusing methods before blending them together to create this surprisingly nuanced gin. “We found that there is so much variety in the flavour of juniper and were able to bring them out in this gin”.
When we normally hear “Christmas gin”, we think “cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, Christmas pudding”, however, Hidden World has purposefully steered away from that assumption with their take on Christmas. Here, our palate is gifted resin-y, herbal frankincense and myrhh that compliment the juniper’s earthy herbaceousness to form a dramatically different spirit that is full of the more unusual tastes of that first Christmas. And “Where is the gold?” you ask? Shake the bottle and see flecks of gold leaf dancing around in the liquid.
This gin started life being referred to as “Roast Dinner Gin” and, on smelling it, you certainly understand why. Sage and thyme harken back to a good old Sunday Roast with the aromas following through on the palate, alongside a gentle black pepper spice from the Horipido and juniper-forward base. The prickle of the ABV can be felt on first sip but quickly soothes and smooths itself away thanks to the full-bodied and robing nature of the gin.
Find out more about Hidden World Gin here.