What exactly do you get when you cross a medical herbalist with a distillation expert? The Botanical Distillery.
Helen Elscot is a medical herbalist with a passion for food and flavours and Jill Mulvaney is one of New Zealand's leading experts in the art of distillation and fragrance - between them, they have more than 50 years experience showcasing the world of botanical plants. Based on Waiheke Island, just 35 minutes via ferry from downtown Auckland, The Botanical Distillery hosts workshops around New Zealand and Australia, showcasing the world of botanical plants and fragrances.
Jill and Helen's careers - forged out of a passion for herbs, plants, flowers and even weeds - crossed first two decades ago in Australia - although they didn't know it at the time.
"When Jill and I met on Waiheke Island a couple of years ago, we had a cup of coffee and reminisced about our careers in herbal medicine and distillation in Australia and gradually our coffee went cold as we realised we'd already worked together without realising it", says Helen.
Jill laughs and says, "While I was away on business from the aromatherapy company I ran in Perth, my manager got Helen in to help with the stock control which was great because she was a student and the hourly rate was really cheap!"
It was here on a small island in the South Pacific that their enthusiasm, knowledge and love of all things botanical started to grow into The Botanical Distillery.
Jill and Helen have teamed up to create a new experience for people wanting to host an event for a special occasion or for corporate businesses wanting to challenge their staff in a team building exercise
Their demonstration of the distillation process - using beautiful copper stills imported from Portugal - will have you creating either a bespoke gin from a mixture of spices, a special fragrance from essential oils or a unique cordial using flavours gathered from the countryside to celebrate your wedding day.
Helen says, "It's such a pleasure to introduce people to the world of botanicals - the science and use of plants. I've just returned from the UK where The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew was showcasing botanical drinks such as gin and tonic, cordials and cocktails. It's very much on trend for celebrating a special occasion."
The tide is turning in the distilling world with a huge surge towards the more hand-crafted drinks such as beers, ciders, gin and whiskey and is now becoming more mainstream.
The Botanical Distillery's events are a unique and unusual experience as all participants work with their senses and engage their emotions instead of their brain.
The Botanical Distillery's workshops include the Fragrance Challenge in which participants are required to mix and blend raw perfume ingredients to create a range of natural cosmetics and a 'signature scent'.
The Gin and Tonic challenge has participants tasting, chewing, crunching and smelling their way through the herbs and spices which are traditionally used to make a bespoke gin.
Jill says, "There are some plants which you wouldn't think would make a gin really zing but black peppercorns, coriander, orange peel and even rose petals are all the latest rage in the gin world.
This makes the gins sitting on shop shelves around the country rather lack-lustre compared to a bespoke and original gin just as a can of baked beans is not that special either, just handy when you can't get anything better.
Jill and Helen have their own preferences for the style of gin they prefer.
"I love my gin to be distinctly perfumed and as I take a sip, I love to feel the synergy of the fragrance. It should be uplifting and joyful. That's the crisp notes of juniper, the sweetness of angelica and the slight bottom note of liquorice with hints of spices and citrus", says Jill.
Helen's preference lies with the heavenly scented rose-flavoured gin. "I swoon. It's such a delicate flavour and perfect to create to celebrate a special occasion, wedding or family get-together. The combination of rose and cucumber makes a for a light, delicate gin which can be made into a tall cocktail with crushed ice, fresh flowers and sipped over an afternoon".
The Botanical Distillery is available for wedding, corporate events and team-building challenges as well as family get-togethers. Contact Helen on 021 5444 19, or Jill on 027 477 7826 or visit the website at www.thebotanicaldistillery.com for more details. Beautiful photography by Amanda Schwarz Photography http://www.amandaschwarz.com/.