New Zealand Hops
Here's my crude impressions, however, loosely remembered and formulated:
Pacific Gem: This is like the Fuggle of NZ. It's earthy with a little spice and oaky character. Alone, it's not that exciting. As the supporting line in a chorus of other hops, it can really contribute.
Pacific Jade: My favorite, it's a kaleidoscope of fruits, with some flowers popping in and out. Fruits are highly tropical, almost cloying in their intensity. Citrus notes tend toward lime zest?
Dr. Rudi: This used to be a bittering hop primarily, but somebody figured out it has nice aroma. I get a core scent of mango and peach. It's best blended with something else, but makes a pretty good single hop beer. Nice, smooth bittering too.
Wakatu: High-toned citrus zest again. Not as complex as the Jade maybe, but a great aroma/dry hop addition.
Nelson Sauvin: A single hop beer with this is coming up. I'm not sure what it's like by itself, but by subtracting other hops I know from these NZ DIPA's I'm thinking the contributions are a mixture of "dankness" and bright, almost tart, fruit?
Kohatu: Drinking this one right now. Wow. Sweet, floral tones seem to be the centerpiece. Can't come up with the key flower, and neither can Lisa. Pine way in the background? It's a little subtler than the others...
Waimea: Stinky. I don't know what I mean by that though. Single hop beer was good, but somehow stinky. There's less fruit and flowers here, and more of a stinkiness. It's not onion, a la Summit, but it reminds me of Summit in the abstract... Kind of a denser aroma, without those high-toned citrus aspects?
Rakau: Here's where I'm most frustrated. I loved the all-Rakau beer, but wrote down nothing. It reminded me of the Pacific Jade, in that the nose was pretty explosive. Less intense and kaleidoscopic, but similarly bright and fruit-citrus forward.
Right now, if I am designing a New Zealand IPA, I like the idea of doing Rakau/PJ on the high/bright side, and Nelson and Waimea for contrast. The one on draft now is fairly amazing, hop-bursted with a blend: Nelson/Waimea/Rakau/PG/Kohatu. Those hops combine to deliver this blast of spicy citrus, sort of like blood orange and grapefruit zest, some white wine brightness. Crisp, firmly bittered, very dry palate. Good stuff. There's' a Wai-iti beer in the works, maybe some two-hop beers, maybe another somewhat random blend like this one. I think it's pretty hard to go wrong with these kinds of hops...