Annie Robertson and Joerg Henkenhaf with Broken Heart Gin.
Launched publicly in September, the gin was made in memory
of Bernd Schnabel, who died in March. Photo by Tracey
Some say time heals all wounds, but for Joerg Henkenhaf
and Annie Robertson, of Arrowtown, it could be said gin has
been their saviour.
The business partners and flatmates launched Broken Heart Gin
in September, in honour of Bernd Schnabel - a close friend of
Mr Henkenhaf and Ms Robertson's partner - who died from
cancer in March, just three weeks after he was diagnosed with
Ms Robertson said Mr Schnabel (66) had been an engineer in
Germany before moving to Queenstown about 20 years ago to
find ''peace and quiet''.
Living in Kelvin Heights, Mr Schnabel soon gained a
reputation for distilling and was affectionately known as
''that crazy German''.
In 1999, Mr Henkenhaf, a commercial pilot based off-shore,
arrived in New Zealand and during a one-week layover
travelled around the North Island and later planned to drive
through the South Island.
While driving through the Gibbston valley, Mr Henkenhaf
spotted vineyards for sale.
''It was always my dream to have a vineyard, so I bought a
vineyard,'' he said.
After seeing grape skins being wasted by neighbours, Mr
Henkenhaf gained permission to use them to make grappa, used
some of their wine to make brandy and also produced his own
When he was tipped off about a fellow German in Kelvin
Heights who was distilling his own alcohol, Mr Henkenhaf
A friendship was quickly formed and the pair began to dream
about distilling their own gin for sale - a dream that took
more than three years to become a reality, but not before Mr
Ms Robertson said after Mr Schnabel died, Mr Henkenhaf
''turned up on my doorstep and said 'Let's do it' ... 'we're
doing the gin' ''. The secret to Broken Heart Gin was its
minimalistic, traditional recipe, which includes spring water
and 11 botanicals.
Mr Henkenhaf said most of the ingredients were either
certified or uncertified organic and as much as possible was
The pair had also ensured it did not price itself out of the
''We want people to drink it - there's no point in making
something and people can only afford to have it once a year.
The gin was produced at Mr Henkenhaf's Cromwell distillery,
which pumped out 12 litres an hour. However, as the company
expanded they would probably look to establish a distillery
While the gin is stocked at liquor stores and restaurants in
Queenstown, Arrowtown and Central Otago, the pair also have
plans to export it.
''We're talking eventually about setting up in Southeast Asia
and Germany ... ''A second variety had also been created.
However, it would be at least six months before they
considered releasing it to the market.
''You need to drink it for a while and see if you like it in
half a year's time,'' Mr Henkenhaf said.
When asked what Mr Schnabel would make of seeing the trio's
dream become reality, Ms Robertson said his first comment
would likely be to inquire about the cost of the Italian
bottles and labelling.
''But he would be proud, so proud ... not just for the gin,
but for how we've come through, I think.''