Puhoi master distiller Alex Kirichuk not only believes alcohol doesn’t have to be a toxin, he says it is the most efficient medium to deliver botanical-based medicine to the body.
Alex says his wife is the only medical doctor in New Zealand with a knowledge of adaptogenotherapy – a field of medicine discovered in the USSR at a time when medical drugs were scarce.
“It was kept top secret and used only for cosmonauts and Olympic athletes, but my wife learned of adaptogens as a doctor for the USSR Olympic sailing team,” he says.
In his home country of Ukraine, Alex was a nuclear power plant inspector. When the Chernobyl disaster happened in 1986, he was sent to investigate and was consequently exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.
Alex says while his colleagues became ill, his wife cured his radiation sickness with a highly concentrated tonic made from grapes.
To be used as medicine, alcohol must be extremely pure and so Alex puts great effort into distilling toxin-free product.
He imports Scottish Highland whisky, which he says is “not bad” as a base to start his batch from.
After a few distillations, it turns pure white and only half of the volume remains.
It is then put into a small barrel, holding five to 20 litres, where it ages much faster than in traditional larger barrels
“It produces a 10-year product in a six-month timescale,” Alex says.
The theory is that when the alcohol is absent of impurities, the liver can process it more easily. This means there is no hangover and the drinker becomes sober much faster.
Sure enough, this reporter sat with Alex and his breathalyser and watched his blood-alcohol readings steadily reduce in just 15 minutes to the legal limit after drinking a 49 per cent proof concoction.
“If you go to the pub and drink beer or wine there are a lot of impurities which the liver has to work on first. Alcohol then accumulates in the blood stream and makes the body sick.”
The purity of his product has earned Alex a number of notable friends and awards.
He has a signed book from chef Simon Gault, Lonely Planet wrote a chapter on him, and he was visited by New York times mixology columnist Sother Teague last month.
One time, Alex purchased coconuts from a plantation owned by the family of then president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, to produce a rum which he then sent to the family as a gift.
President Aquino loved the brew so much he visited Alex in Puhoi, picked him up and took him with the Filipino delegation to Wellington to dine with John Key.
Alex also takes credit for New Zealand’s own first baby. He gave a bottle of Manuka Whiskey to Jacinda Ardern just before the election and soon after she became pregnant.
Alex’s products are available at Smith & Caughey’s in Auckland, but locals can contact the Organic Puhoi Distillery Facebook page for a discounted drop.