Bec Kay left her career as a theatre nurse to become one of just ten female distillers in the country.
Joining her family business, The Bond Store, Kay is now the chief cistiller at the top independent distillery, creating its award-winning spirits, including the top-selling Great NZ Gin Trap, Down the Garden Path Gin, and its new range, Cocktail Collusion.
When Kay first began distilling, apart from her passion for a good gin, she knew very little about the industry. However, her experience as a theatre nurse has proved hugely influential in The Bond Store's success.
"I came from an intense area of nursing and we had to have at least three backup plans in place every day. From day one at The Bond Store, I've applied the same approach to distilling. While it may not be a life-threatening situation, it's still a sensitive process with a number of steps, and anything can go wrong at any time," explained Kay.
"I like to get in and fix things myself; I am organised and very particular about cleanliness and detail. All of these skills have come from working in an operating theatre for 18 years."
Given the minimal presence of female distillers in the New Zealand spirits sphere, Kay has been committed to recruit and encourage more women to enter the industry.
At The Bond Store, while she is proud that her entire manufacturing team is female, Kay has plans to continue to expand this element of the business.
She feels that there is still a lot of work to be done in helping to increase the representation and treatment of women in the distilling industry.
"Many people still assume that Chris, my co-founder and partner, is the distiller and like to 'mansplain' to me. It's always satisfying to correct them by informing them that not only am I the distiller, but our entire production team are women."
Since entering the spirits industry, Kay has become known as the "gin lady" on the Kāpiti Coast.
"I'm so proud to make products that people love and keep on buying. I'm often stopped at the supermarket where people ask if I'm the 'gin lady', which verifies we're on the right path," shared Kay.
"If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be chief distiller in our family business, I wouldn't have believed them - but it's one of the most fulfilling things I've done."
Kay continues to take pride in The Bond Store's positive impact on breaking gender norms and highly encourages more women to consider a career in distilling.