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Wayne & Kathy Chowles

Rail Trail Tales With Waikino Hotel and Kaimai Brewing & Distilling

Most of us have a favourite tipple, but our newest Official Partner Wayne Chowles (and partner Kathy) has just won an Award for his Gold Gin. The Waikino Ho­tel publi­can is a gold-medal win­ner for Eliza’s Claim Gold Gin at this year’s New Zealand Spir­its Awards.

Wayne told us he perfected the art of making fine Gin as a home-brew hob­by­ist, but is now dis­till­ing on a com­mer­cial level in the four-inch flute still based at the ho­tel. Lucky pub visitors have been the first to ex­pe­ri­ence the earthy, spicy Gin with rose­mary and honey, and by all accounts it’s a hit.

With a true nod to the area’s historic past, the Gin’s name­sake was the partner of a prom­i­nent min­ing fig­ure and had a mine named af­ter her. The bot­tle la­bel also has a sur­veyor’s map of the lo­cal min­ing claims. Would you believe Wayne even puts a dust­ing of ed­i­ble gold in his Gin.

We caught up with Wayne to hear more about his new venture, what he believes makes the Hauraki Rail Trail so unique, and of course what’s next…



Q    Who are you and what is your background?

Wayne Chowles, I have a background in engineering and project management, but my passions are people, craft beer and spirits. Being involved at the Waikino gives me ample opportunity to indulge those passions. 


Q    What inspired you to become an Official Partner of the Hauraki Rail Trail?

I believe that there is strength in numbers. The Trail gives participating businesses the opportunity to “share the love”, support each other and grow the whole area. The Rail Trail is very popular and brings a lot of potential customers from diverse backgrounds past our door.


Q    What can visitors look forward to when they visit the Waikino Hotel?

Friendly service from committed staff, a selection of great craft beers and spirits, and really good quality pub grub at a great price.



Q    Where can visitors find the Eliza’s Claim Gin and Kaimai Brewing & Distilling?

Kaimai Brewing and Distilling have established their distillery at the Waikino. The Eliza’s Claim Gin range is a small batch Gin range, manufactured on the premises.


Q    What have been your major successes with Eliza’s Claim Gin?

Eliza’s Claim Gold Gin was awarded a gold medal in the 2021 NZ Spirits Awards.


Q    What memory or experience on the Trail will stay with you most?

I have only ridden the stretch between Waihi and Paeroa. The part that passes through the Gorge is by far my favourite. Riding through the 1100m long tunnel and stopping in for a well-earned pint at the Kino on my way back!


Photo: Karangahake Gorge Tunnel - @x.escape.reality.x on Instagram


Q    What in your opinion makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique?

The natural beauty of the area, and the number of hospitality options available to riders to break up the journey.


Q    What’s next for you and the Waikino?

We’ve just introduced Eliza’s Claim Ruby Gin to the range, and it's exciting to see this new addition come to fruition. It's a contemporary style Gin that draws on the beautiful flavours and aromas of the Hybiscus flower, to supplement the traditional Gin botanicals, and create a floral, slightly sweet Gin. We are also developing our own Rum.



Wayne’s Gin is made from scratch, in­clud­ing the base wine. He uses four­teen dif­fer­ent botan­i­cals and each batch takes months to cre­ate and age. Next time you’re passing through Waikino, stop off at the Hotel and enjoy a glass for yourself!


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