About Prenzel

The Prenzel Story


Prenzel in the Beginning

The story of The Prenzel Distilling Company began in 1989 when Robert Wuest visited Hugh and Chris Steadman at their cherry orchard on the outskirts of Blenheim. As they were walking through the cherry blossoms an idea came to him.

Robert came from an old distilling family in Alsace in Eastern France, a region famed for its Eaux-de-vie (fruit brandies). In Alsace, small mobile stills had been a traditional part of village life for many generations. After World War II, in an attempt to simplify the collection of duties on alcohol, the French government outlawed these artisanal stills. Those that escaped destruction went into hiding.

One of these stills, Alouette, as she was to become known, was one such political fugitive. Discovered in a widow's cellar in Mulhouse, she was acquired and smuggled across the Swiss border then shipped to NZ.

The initial distilling trials were carried out in a shed at the back of the cherry orchard with Leon Sorg, an Alsatian distiller and friend. He trained a Kiwi apprentice who later followed him back to Alsace for further training.

The results were promising. Marlborough's high sunshine hours along with the unpolluted skies and vigorous soils, offered the potential to produce fruit brandies of exceptional quality.
This finding was confirmed four years later with a gold medal won by Prenzel for a Pear William brandy at Destillata, the world’s largest open fruit brandy competition, held annually in Austria.

The first commercial fruit brandy distillery in the Southern Hemisphere was subsequently established in Blenheim in 1992. Initially it was known as the Alsace NZ Distilling Co. Ltd., producing fruit brandies, tipsy cherries and Waterloo Gin.

Re-branded as the Prenzel Distilling Co. Ltd. in 1994, the company grew large enough to look seriously at its distribution network. The beverage range was initially sold through wholesalers and retail liquor outlets but the “experience” of Prenzel products could not be passed on to the customer using these traditional sales methods. Blind tastings with other market leaders and the Prenzel equivalent in the distillery’s own tasting- room showed that Prenzel products were preferred.

The answer was Prenzel Direct. Born in 1997 it quickly became a vital marketing and sales arm of its parent company. Modelled as an alcoholic version of the time-honoured party plan concept, Prenzel guests around the country were soon enjoying an in-home opportunity to taste before purchasing. At the same time, to help balance the parties between drink and food, Prenzel introduced items such as infused olive oils that were designed for the kitchen rather than for the drinks cupboard. The Prenzel range is now equally balanced between beverage and food items.

After discussions with an enthusiastic customer, the first franchised tasting room opened in Hastings in 1999. Soon, other tasting rooms opened around the country. Each followed the Prenzel tradition of allowing customers to taste before they purchase — and have a fun experience while doing so.
There are now a number of Prenzel franchises situated throughout New Zealand which offer the Prenzel experience as well as our own tasting room in Marlborough.

After ten years of continuous growth, in 2005, Prenzel embarked on an ambitious programme of expansion, which included many new products and an exciting re-imaging of the whole range. Prenzel Direct was reborn as Prenzel Pantry with new look catalogues that include other New Zealand company’s gourmet products.

To learn more about the Prenzel Pantry service, contact the distillery on (0800)773693

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