Meet the Distiller: Mark Halton, Denzien Urban Distillery

Denzien Urban Gin

After spending 15 years working as a creative in design, marketing, and advertising, Mark Halton jumped headfirst and bought a manufacturing business. The next 15 years were spent transforming zinc alloy ingots into beautiful decorative metalware for the NZ Defence Force, Karen Walker and Harley-Davidson to name a few. But, with a love of food and wine, and two parents with PhDs in organic chemistry, Halton ended up writing a business plan to make and sell gin in downtown Wellington. 

Unashamedly urban, Denzien is a true artisan Gin distillery in Lombard Lane, right in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand. The core of the Denzien story is to reflect New Zealand-ness in every bottle of gin they make, through ingredients and geography. 

Denzien, a made up word, according to urban dictionary means ‘an awesome clan of people who take the time to enjoy the finer things in life’. It is for these denzien’s that Halton creates brazen city gin.

Halton aims to make Denzien’s gin approachable; meaning it is comfortable to sip neat, or is easily combined with a considered mixer, as well as being a quality ingredient for an array of cocktails. Pure, clean and delicious are all qualities that Halton considers in a great spirit.

In 2019, Denzien received the NZ Spirits Award trophy for Best NZ Gin in Category, and the ultimate trophy for Best Overall Gin in Category, just a few months after opening the doors.

The distillery offers a shop-front retail experience. As a retailer, and despite half of wholesale trade being to hospitality businesses, over the last two years as the pandemic hit industries across the globe Denzien have kept their heads up. During lockdowns, online sales continued and they were able to continue supplying bottle shops across the country. To Halton, the most rewarding part of the job is the delight on customers faces, and the laughter in the tasting shop -where customers can sit next to the copper glow of Denzien’s Kothe while trying the latest Distillers Proof gin release, or a tutored tasting tray of permanent London Dry labels. 

Denzien incorporate innovative and sustainable practices as part of their business. Digitisation has been implemented into the analogue process, meaning real-time temperatures can be monitored and adjusted from offsite using a smartphone app.

“Simply put, we have plugged our still into the internet.”

This innovation allows the distillery to control their temperatures with pinpoint accuracy, record distillation history, and grab a sandwich while operating solo. A gin recipe is more than botanicals -it is also the temperatures during the course of the distillation day.

In sustainability efforts, Denzien use lean manufacturing processes which encompass waste. Specific to packaging, glass arrives in the printed carton in which it will ship. The distillery simply clean-fill-seal-label, placing the finished product back in the box, removing waste created by glass arriving separately from its shipping cartons. Everything Denzien send out can be recycled -except the gin.

The distillery has begun its export journey via Singapore to Hong Kong and a number of surrounding countries including mainland China to positive feedback. Growing the export opportunity in Asia is a clear focus, while extending local reach. 

“I would like to see the NZ spirits community celebrated on the international stage. There is no reason why spirits can’t follow the successes we’ve had as a nation within the wine industry.”

Denzien has a unique story to tell, and there is international interest in how they tell that story through the products they make, specific to botanicals and geography.