What started out as a hobby grew into a passion. They say every brewer wants to grow up to be a distiller and this has certainly proved true with the owners – Wayne and Kathy Chowles. The journey started ten years ago with a batch of over ripe Feijoa and a tiny still which turned out the first batch of very average spirits, but ignited a spark. Since then we have spent many hours reading, learning and experimenting until we arrived at the point where we could call our work “fine Spirits”.
Two years ago, Inspired by old stories of the gold mining era and Wayne’s background in the mining industry, we embarked on an adventure, to create a hand crafted/single batch gin which would celebrate the heritage of the area in which we live, the land, the people and the history of the Karangahake Gorge and surrounding areas.
In September 2020 Kaimai Brewing & Distilling Co. was born with the release of “Eliza’s Claim” Gold gin, which was crafted in our distillery based at the historic Waikino Hotel in the Karangahake Gorge. Our gin is proofed with pure artisan spring water and infused with a range of locally and internationally sourced botanicals which combine to create a truly unique flavour. We are humbled to say that our patience and attention to detail has been rewarded with a Gold Medal Award in the 2021 New Zealand Spirits Awards.
WHO WAS ELIZA ?
Our Gin celebrates a beautiful woman who lived in the Kaimai’s at the turn of the 19th century. Eliza Earl was born in Greerton, Tauranga on the 24th of January 1868 and was the 7th child of Stephen and Eliza who had settled in the area in the early 1860’s.
Eliza attended the Greerton school until she turned 13 in 1881 and then moved with her family to a farm on the Whatakau River at Aongatete near Katikati.
Eliza lived with her parents until just before her 21st birthday when she married an Italian immigrant by the name of Joseph Squinobal in January 1889 in Katikati. Joseph was considerably older than Eliza and was a coachman in the New Zealand mail service. The couple moved to Te Aroha where Eliza gave birth to her first child, a son, named Albert George Squinobal, on the 23rd of March 1890. Shortly after Georges birth Joseph vanished and little is known about him until his death in the Waikato in January 1903 at the age of 75.
Following Josephs disappearance Eliza and young George moved back to the family farm near Katikati where she caught the fancy of a young man by the name of William Tilsley. William and his brother John had been mining in Waihi and moved south to prospect for gold deeper in the Kaimai ranges. They based their camp on the Earl family farm and certainly got deeply involved with the Earls. John was to marry Eliza’s sister Ada, while Eliza formed a relationship with William that lasted the rest of her life, although they would never marry.
In April 1896 William discovered a gold bearing vein and registered a claim over an area that he named the Eliza after the new love of his life. He then sold the claim to a local consortium and he an Eliza headed north towards Thames. They lived together as man and wife and were blessed with a son, William, on 1st April 1897.
Eliza fell pregnant again in 1899 and, on 27 January 1900, gave birth to a daughter called Violet. Unfortunately the baby only lived for 12 hours, Eliza passed away seven days later and she and the baby Violet are buried together in the Totara Cemetery, Thames.