Little Biddy is a legend; a feisty four-foot female gold prospector whose hard-working, hard-living history is still remembered in the West Coast town of Reefton. Bridget Goodwin, also known as ‘Little Biddy’ or ‘Biddy of the Buller’, was born in Ireland in 1813 but followed the gold trail via Ballarat and Bendigo to the South Island’s West Coast. This diminutive pipe-smoking heavy drinker, who could work like a man and kept herself and her hut immaculately clean, arrived with two male companions to prospect for gold in the Buller region. She moved to Reefton towards the end of her long life, and her well-tended grave can be seen in the Reefton cemetery today.
These days, Bridget Goodwin’s legend, lives on in a new guise, as the inspiration behind Reefton Distilling Co.’s Little Biddy range of gins; Little Biddy West Coast Botanical Dry Gin, Little Biddy Black Label Gin and Little Biddy Gold Label Gin have all been roaring out the door since the distillery opened in October 2018. Managing Director Patsy Bass says that while the imported juniper berry provides gin’s primary unique flavour, other ingredients, including natives such as toatoa and tarata (lemonwood), are foraged locally to give their gin its unique West Coast flavour. Native botanicals are selected from the same West Coast rainforest, where Biddy once fossicked for gold, on the morning that the product is distilled. The name ‘botanicals’ covers the seeds, berries, fruits and herbs used to give the contemporary gin its distinctive taste.
“It’s not all about price. Everything starts in Reefton, and if we can’t get an ingredient here, we look firstly in Buller, then the West Coast before we go further afield,” says Reefton-born Patsy, who is a passionate advocate for revitalising the local economy.
Life’s been hectic in the short time since the distillery opened in its historic premises in Smith Street, Reefton. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come into Reefton specially to visit the distillery.”