Spicy lift for owner of a broken heart

High spirits: Joerg Henkenhaf with his Broken Heart Spiced Rum

German Arrowtowner Joerg Henkenhaf launched Broken Heart Spirits five years ago to honour the memory of a close friend.

Henkenhaf and fellow German Bernd Schnabel spent many long evenings together drinking and discussing the grand art of distilling.

The passionate distillers created their own gin over three years, perfecting the intricate balance of 11 herbs and Queenstown spring water.

But Schnabel was diagnosed with cancer and just three weeks later, in March 2012, he passed away.

Henkenhaf decided to share the gin they’d made with the world, launching the business with Schnabel’s partner Annie Robertson.

Five years later, Broken Heart Spirits sells 30,000 bottles a year and has won numerous international awards.

It has just added ‘Black Hearted’ spiced rum to its stable of seven other spirits.

Henkenhaf, a commercial pilot, says: “It has taken three years to develop the spiced rum.

“We always had it in mind but the timing was difficult – we wanted to focus on the main product.

“And I’m not a rum person, so I had to get my head around what is wanted and what is needed.”

Black Hearted rum is made from a base of Fijian rum and a recipe including cinnamon, vanilla and orange peel.

Schnabel made a basic rum back in the day, but Henkenhaf says he wanted to focus on adding spice.

Henkenhaf and friend Nick Cameron taste-tested various combinations for about two years.

Eventually, they hit on the right one with batch ‘F’.

The company also produces a gin, navy-strength gin, barrel-aged gin, quince gin, quince liquor and vodka, all priced around $70 for 500ml, although the navy-strength is $80.

It’s produced at Henkenhaf’s Cromwell distillery and stocked throughout Queenstown in round-necked Oslo bottles.

The spiced rum is macerated for about two weeks, using rum aged three years in the barrel.

But for the gin, the botanicals are macerated for three days in a base of alcohol molasses then distilled by Henkenhaf in a 150-litre copper pot, which usually takes about four hours.

The resulting spirit is blended with glacial spring water, from a spring at its premises on White Chapel Road, Arrowtown, to 40 per cent for gin and 57 per cent for navy-strength.

Broken Heart Spirits is one of the forerunners of New Zealand’s independent gin movement. When launched it was one of two distilleries, now there’s 11.

It exports 94 per cent of its bottles overseas, to places like England, Germany, Dubai, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.