Get To Know This Local Award-Winning Distillery And It's Journey To Global Success

From a still in a corner bar to winning some of the world’s most prestigious spirits awards, for No8 Distillery the journey is just beginning.

Currently the most awarded distillery in Aotearoa with no signs of letting upon the accolades anytime soon, No8 Distillery is a labour of love that began in Dunedin when founder and distiller, Julien Delavoie began creating spirits in earnest during the pandemic. A chef and pastry chef for over 18 years —during which he spent time working as senior sous chef and head pastry chef at a Michelin starred restaurant and 5star hotel — Julien’s family come from Deauville in Normandy, France and have distilled Calvados, an apple liquor and speciality of the region, since 1910. His own distillation experience included making rum, calvados and cider with his grandparents while still a child, and when he arrived in New Zealand he continued that by making good use of a still in his garage.“I was amazed that I could do that here,” laughs the distiller, “in Europe it is totally illegal to make alcohol in a garage, after the government bought a law against it in the 1920s. If you have a pot still in your family as a legacy, as we do, you can continue, but when I found that I could freely in New Zealand I got straight back into it.”

The name No8 Distillery was a tribute to Julien and his former business partner, Michael Wilson’s Kiwi ingenuity and drive to “make things happen”, when the still moved into the corner window of a bar named Dog with Two Tails. From the beautiful shiny copper Franken still named Thérèse, after his spirits-making grandmother, Julien created a unique collection of three very different gins, appealing to different palates and moods. “When the gin boom happened we moved to a premises on Hanover Street in Dunedin,” explains Julien, “and now we’ve moved to a new distillery again, this one twice the size and in an old warehouse building with an even bigger still, Jacquie.” His first runs wereHoropito gin for himself and his friends to enjoy as well as a select few liqueurs, but now a No8 rum range, including 3year old Golden, Pineapple and French Spiced, is set to launch within the next few months as production ramps up. Over the years Julien became an avid forager for new ingredients on the Otago peninsula, and after speaking with“the Māori community here I learned so much. I now know there is a sea Horopito and a bush Horopito from the hills, which is less peppery and more fragrant”. He uses this knowledge to constantly tweak his recipes, and the results continue to impress.

The distillery originally began entering competitions “just for the judges ’feedback,” says Julien, “but when I started winning awards I was happily surprised. I responded to the feedback and improved and tweaked where I could, and I continue to learn so much. ”In 2022’s World Gin Awards, No8 won the Best in Country award in the Contemporary Style Gin category for its Horopito Gin, also gaining a bronze for its Dunners Gin.

Now as well as three distinctive gins, the distillery offers a limoncello, elderflower liqueur, pineapple rum elixir, ouzo and an absinthe from a family recipe dating back to 1926. The latter won 2023 Absinthe of the Year at the USA Spirits Ratings competition, and includes foraged the artemisia (wormwood) sourced locally by Julien in the Otago hills. “I will be going to France in a few weeks and there will be a lot of celebrating to do,” says the spirits guru with a laugh, with much more to come.