An adventurous spirit, historical inspiration and a rather famous fan have proved to be the ingredients for the success of Jane Walkenhorst’s boutique Kiwi gin-making business Riot & Rose
Words by Jane Lyons
It was the summer of 2016 and Jane Walkenhorst wanted to do something out of her comfort zone. A new adventure that was to be vibrant, exciting and bold. But when making the call on what this new journey would be, Jane realised that it could be something very much in her comfort zone: gin. “Starting a business is all consuming, so I decided it needed to be something I wouldn’t mind feeling consumed by. My husband suggested wine, but I wanted something outside the square. ‘I enjoy drinking gin’, I said flippantly. And that was it.”
And that certainly was it. Jane was to make gin and make it outrageously well. First things first, however – a spot of research. “Travelling overseas captivated my interest in the cocktail culture and, combined with my love of gin, lead to extensive research and recipe development. Many a blending session and boozy dinner with friends was had during that period – all in the name of research of course!” That research paid off and with a bit of “gin Dutch courage” Jane gave a green light to the project and hasn’t looked back. “I pressed the button on it one night and it all went whoosh. It’s been a phenomenal ride so far.”
What’s in a name?
Good gin needs a good name, and in the case of Riot and Rose, that good name comes with a good bit of gin history, too – history that inspired Jane to enter the market with not one but two signature gins, 1743 Riot and 1920 Rose. “1743 Riot is based on the 1743 gin riots in London. When the tax on gin was hiked up, people literally rioted on the streets. It’s that commitment and passion that captured my attention,” Jane says. “1743 Riot Gin is founded on that rebellion. It’s a modern take on the traditional, being bold, mellow and time-honoured.”
And the rose bit? That harks back to an era of romance and glamour. “The 1920s saw gin in vogue... Art Deco, dapper gentlemen and flapper beauties defined the age. 1920 Rose recounts that style and elegance with its floral, lifted and delicate notes. “Riot & Rose Gins are a modern, unique play on a timeless tipple from two distinct eras in two distinct gins.”
While the initial plan was to distill the gin in Marlborough where Jane and the rest of the business is based, the growth of the brand was so rapid that this plan had to change quick-smart and distilling was moved to Nelson – a decision that Jane says has opened more doors than expected. “It’s funny how the unexpected can be incredibly positive – we’ve had greater options with this setup and incredible quality control. It’s also meant we haven’t had enormous capital outlay, which has allowed us to keep control and not sell part of the business, which is all too common.”
The gin, as Jane proudly sums up, is “created in Marlborough, distilled in Nelson and all mine.” A feat in itself to be proud of, but there’s one special moment in this wild ride that Jane is particularly proud of – when Riot & Rose had a bit of a royal moment. “We were recently in the news, when our prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, gifted a bottle of Riot & Rose Gin to the Duchess of Cornwall. A proud moment that has us oh-so chuffed. It put us on the world stage and boy did people notice, things just took off.”
Cheers to that.
Riot and Rose gins are available at selected Liquorland stores nationwide, RRP$79.99