TODAY |

Golden Bay couple turning heads worldwide with Willy Wonka approach to gin distilling

Trading in their corporate jobs to follow their dreams, Sarah and Ben Bonomas embarked on a journey into gin making. They've since become the country's most awarded distillery in a handful of years. 

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Ben and Sarah Bonoma wanted their own gin distillery. The only problem was, they had no experience. But that didn't put them off. Source: Seven Sharp

The pair ditched their keyboards in Wellington for a spot in the sun, setting up shop in the sunny Golden Bay where the Dancing Sands distillery was born. 

"Nothing other than that it was our go-to drink in the evening, you know. We really enjoyed drinking gin but that was really our only qualification," said Sarah. 

They began their journey in Takaka with two proper advantages; an old fashioned still and the Te Waikoropupu Spring, one of the clearest in the world, just down the road. 

Guided by their love of the spirit, they wanted to craft a drink that appealled to them.  

"... We don't come from beverage background. That's our barometer for what's good," Ben Bonomas told Seven Sharp. 

From culinary to marketing, many of the staff were just as new to the industry and eager to try new things. 

That included the team making New Zealand's and probably the world's first breakfast gin — bacon flavoured. 

"It never made the cut past the early stages. It wasn't quite right," said Sarah Bonomas. 

"Your mind doesn't quite compute what's going on". 

While not every flavour might be destined to be brewed with gin, their other flavours from wasabi to saffron have picked up a litany of international medals. 

But there's one brew in particular that takes the cake; their very own sauvignon blanc gin. 

“The trick was figuring out how we could do it where we could capture the flavour of sauvignon blanc and not just tip wine into gin,” said Ben. 

Such creativity has helped the gutsy ginslingers rack up over 50 international nods in just five years.