Ugh, 2 1/2 months since the last post. That’s Holidays, Illness and two new kittens taking over everything for you! The kittens are pretty adorable though so they get forgiven.
So, September 2017 saw Junipalooza visit Hamburg for the first time at the beautiful Fischauktionshalle. The Gin Foundry guys really know how to pick a location, and this one really echoed the feeling of the Tobacco Dock venue in London. While normally Junipalooza runs over the whole weekend, the Hamburg offering ran Friday and Saturday because guess what happens in the Fischauktionshalle on a Sunday morning? Surprising nobody, the Fish Market takes place. I’ve been told on good authority that it’s well worth visiting from 5am on a Sunday for its rather unique blend of people out doing their food shopping for the weekend, and all night party people who have popped in for breakfast and to listen to the live bands.
Onto the gin, it was great to see some local German offerings that I wasn’t terribly familiar with, more than a couple of which made the trip home with me, mixed in with some old favourites. I went out with hand luggage only, thinking I’d resist the lure of having to pay the £30 to put a bag full of bottles in the hold on the way back… should have known I’d break at some point (damn you Stig). So, just a few little notes about some of the ones that caught my eye, or indeed came home with me. Hope to follow up some of these with proper tastings in the near future. I had intended to take a lot more photos than this, but the night before I left my camera battery decided to snuff it… so that put an end to that idea. Ah well.
Bareksten – I’m going to start with this one as it blew me away. Bareksten is a Norwegian gin, distilled at the Oss Craft Distillery by the fine Viking gentleman that Stig Bareksten (Thank you, Katie, for the intro!). I was already a fan of the existing gin, and this just took it to another level. Deep, earthy juniper on the nose with some citrus coming through, and then more spice and sweetness when you taste. Just… yum, and as I mentioned, the one that broke my resolve not to pay to put a bag in the hold on the way back home! Just to throw it in, I’ve also been in love with the branding of this stuff since day one, the whole black on black, gloss on matt of their materials an bottles just… well… pleases me greatly!
Huckleberry Gin – So, Huckleberry can mean Blueberry, among a few others – who knew? Don’t answer that, the answer is probably a whole bunch of people and I’m just laying my ignorance out there for all to see. I think these guys actually had one of my favourite brands of the event, simple but it made me smile.
Two guys from Munich put together Huckleberry Gin, as a tribute to friendship (aww). Copper pot distilled with 22 botanicals including, of course, Blueberries. Delicious, fruity and terribly easy to drink with the blueberries leading the charge alongside the juniper. One I don’t think will be hanging around on my shelf for too long.
Gin Sul – A local Hamburg gin, which seems to have been going from strength to strength (especially if the number of bottles I saw people picking up at the airport are anything to go by!) Created by Stephan Garbe, a carpenter by trade, after travelling Portugal. Each bottle proclaims “Saudade distilled in Hamburg”, Saudade apparently meaning a feeling of melancholy, longing or nostalgia – kinda what you get after coming back from a great holiday. The gin features some of the usual botanicals but also rose, allspice and labdanum. Floral but without overriding the juniper heart, makes an amazing G&T with some orange and rosemary.
GinT Rubro – I’ve been eyeing this up for a while, but was a little put off by the price without actually having had a chance to taste it, as I would any higher priced overproof gin. Well, I tasted it and then bought a bottle before leaving which should give you an idea of what the outcome of the tasting was. GinT is a rather distinctive looking London Dry, Navy Strength Portuguese gin that wouldn’t be out of place in a chemistry class (appeals to my inner nerd). When we first tasted it, the guys on the stand asked what we could smell and taste. Both myself and the friend I was with recognised something, but it wasn’t until they mentioned the fig bark that the penny dropped. The friend that put me up for the weekend is Australian and he immediately clicked it was a fig tree in the garden back home that it reminded him of. Delicious, punchy, slightly fruity dry gin, well worth the price of admission.
Martin Miller’s 9 Moons – I’ve said on a couple of occasions that I think the big lesson I took back from Hamburg was that I can no longer say, “I don’t normally like cask aged gins”. There were several that really converted me to the cause, but there were two that stood out, this being one of them. 9 Moons is barrel aged for 9 months (obviously) in bourbon casks in Iceland. Was really interesting to see what a different the Icelandic climate makes to the ageing process and how much trial and error it took to get this right. The result is delicious, the usual clean, crisp citrus and cucumber notes of the standard gin is muted somewhat, and the ageing process leaves you with this incredible hit of warm vanilla, followed up by a spicy, cinnamon and pepper finish. Officially a convert.
Marylebone Cask Aged – Well, after saying how the weekend converted me, I couldn’t mention one cask-aged gin without bringing up the other as well. I gather I was fairly lucky to snag a bottle of this at the end of the event as it seems the very nice gentleman Johnny Neill only had a couple of bottles brought along for samples… kinda feeling I should have run around everyone at the end of the evening to see what else special was around! So, if you haven’t tried it, Marylebone London Dry is distilled in London by the Pleasure Garden Distilling co and is a great classic example of a London Dry. The Cask-Aged variant takes their dry and ages it in Rum barrels. I think what’s often put me off is that when a gin is aged in whiskey barrels you get a lot of that heavy peaty flavour which I’m really not a fan of. This, aged in the rum barrels, however, lends it that delicious, fruity, slightly spicy rum edge without overpowering the juniper or all the other notes of the dry gin. Need to spend some time with this one methinks to pick up all the nuances.
Incredible event overall. Much more of a chilled feeling than the London event, and a bit more intimate. Really hope it goes from strength to strength and comes back next year with more distillers and more locals in Hamburg discovering the joy of the day!
My god, I hate having my photo taken. I look like the joker!