Junipalooza London is, sadly, over for another year which means we’re currently in the “Post-Junipalooza Funk” week. Always feels like it’s akin to that week after Christmas. After all the excitement and build up, the event was amazing but now you know you’ve got to wait a year until the next one. And the event was amazing; the Gin Foundry guys did themselves proud this year sticking to their “Better, not bigger” philosophy. 76 Distillers (I think), 4 Experiences, Merchant’s Heart doing some free talks, Stig in his Norwegian Forest nook – all amazing. We went for Saturday Evening and Sunday again this year, and once again although I hit most of the distillers I wanted to see, there were quite a few I’m annoyed I just didn’t get time to get to. All three sessions next year maybe?
What I really took away from this year, as well as the gin, of course, is just how incredible the community is. I can’t think of another event where I’ve spent so much time with a smile plastered on my face just chatting, shaking hands and in many cases hugging people…which as a self-confessed hugger is never a bad thing. I was genuinely blown away by the openness, friendliness, and warmth of both the distillers and fellow attendees. It’s lovely to be able to meet someone you’ve been chatting to over Twitter for the last year and finally put faces to names and get to know them as a person rather than just a handle.
So, some noteworthy mentions. Frankly, this section could run on for pages and pages if I listed everyone, so this is very much a snapshot. Apologies to anyone missed out! As it is, I’m going there enough for me to keep each one fairly short and sweet.
Never Never Distilling Co.: Juniper Freak
I think Juniper Freak gets the award for most talked about gin of the event. When speaking to others about what had stood out to them, almost everyone had something to say about this stuff. Never-Never had 2 big juniper gins, Triple Juniper and the aforementioned freak. Both are made with juniper 3 ways, macerated, fresh and then vapour infused as well. The Freak is the navy strength variant and it’s just incredible. Thick, oily, louches like anything when you add a splash of water or tonic and is pretty much like having your senses pelted with Juniper from every direction. If you want to try the stuff for yourself, at the time of writing I believe it’s exclusive to Gin Kiosk.
Lone Wolf – Zealot’s Heart
When Brewdog rebranded their Lone Wolf gin line a few months ago, they also announced something new: Zealot’s Heart. Luckily, I remembered to ask as they had a bottle or two stashed under the counter. This stuff was delicious. Heavy on the juniper and Citrus and with a lot more depth than the Lone Wolf. Sadly not released for a few more weeks yet. They also mentioned that the Gunpowder Edition (Navy strength gin) is getting a rebrand a relaunch in the coming months too.
Downton Distillery – Explorer’s Gin
The newly launched Explorer’s Gin from Downton Distillery had the honour of the bursary spot this year and absolutely did it justice. Downton Distillery can be found in a Grade 1 listed barn, adjacent to Downton Manor in Wiltshire. The gin built around the spirit of exploration and nods to the links that Downton Manor has to Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth. Macerated and then vapour infused, Explorer is distilled as a one shot. Fifteen botanicals go into the gin but particular note should be given to something quite unique: Western Red Cedar. The charming and ever enthusiastic Hugh Anderson, the man behind the gin (pictured below being mobbed by some friends we were attending with) was handing out little sprigs to taste, and it’s… unexpected. It adds something really different to the gin, rich and piney with an almost mint like finish. Really sets Explorers apart from some of its contemporaries.
Mackintosh is quite a recent addition to the gin world, having launched only towards the end of last year. A family run distillery headed up by Jim and Deb Mackintosh, it’s a classic juniper-forward gin with a little lift from local elderflower and some fresh grapefruit. Heading down from Dundee, they were one of the six newcomers showing this year. As with last year, the newcomers zone was our first port of call and I don’t regret a second of it. Rather than repeating myself too much, if you want some more info on this one, you can read my previous write up of it here. Cheers to Ginsmagic for a copy of the end of the night selfie!
The brainchild of Victoria Christie, Graveney’s master distiller, this gin started life as a hobby produced in a 5 litre still in Tooting. Even now it’s an organic and very small batch gin, produced in just two 30 litre stills. Still keeping it local, they have a nano bar in Tooting Market that is high up on my visit list next time I’m in the capital. Graveney has a lovely fresh nose that combines floral and piney and delivers in the taste in spades – smooth, juniper lead and a lovely earthy, nutty note to end with a slightly peppery finish. Vic was also testing a couple of possible new additions to the lineup and I have to say, a more difficult choice I don’t think I’ve made in a long time, they were both amazing and I can’t wait to see the final result. I’ll round this one off by saying Vic was absolutely charming and couldn’t have been nicer – only sad I didn’t think to get a selfie to follow up the hugs… I’m a sucker for hugs. If you want to find out more, I could do no better than to recommend that you head over to The Gin Shelf and read the interview that Matt did with Vic there, it’s a great read.
Corner 53 – L.M.P
So, Lemon Meringue Pie Gin… no no, hear me out, this isn’t some overly sweet abortion of a “gin”, this is very much still a gin at heart without me needing to do air quotes when I mention it. It’s also slightly batshit in the most glorious way imaginable. They chuck in lemon curd and pastry.. and it shouldn’t work, it really shouldn’t! It does though, the juniper is still there but you get this hit of lemon curd, rather than lemon and then you’re just left with this curdy, buttery aftertaste. Nuts… glorious.
Hidden Curiosities – Aranami
Anyone who knows me will know that Hidden Curiosities sits on high as one of my favourite gins of all time, as it does with most of my family as well! This is partly because the gin is amazing, and partly because you can’t help but love the lady behind the gin. Jenny was at Junipalooza this year to show off her latest creation: Aranami (Raging Waves if you’re not fluent in Japanese). The Aranami edition is an amazing 59% navy that continues to embrace the Japanese influence with 7 of it’s 20 botanicals being sourced from Japan. Yuzu gives it a stunning citrus hit with a difference, and sansho peppers impart an intriguing lemony, mentholy, somethingyness that’s really hard to describe. I could go on If you ever get the chance to taste a sansho pepper, do, it’s a weird and rather mouth-numbing sensation. It’s smooth enough to drink neat, which in itself is a feat at 59%! It also makes an amazing G&T with a real punch to push back against the tonic. Finally, if you’re a Negroni fan… just trust me and try it. One of the botanicals is salted cherry blossom (Hence the Raging Sea name) and it adds an edge to a Negroni that needs to be experienced.
The Gower Gin Company
I’ve been wanting to meet Siân and Andrew from Gower for ages, so they were another distillery it was lovely to finally put a face to after only ever having chatted online. No disappointment, they too couldn’t have been friendlier or represented their product any better Anyone who welcomes me at 11 am with an aged Negroni automatically scores brownie points. Anyone who welcomes me with one of the most delicious Negronis I’ve ever had and the first Negroni ever that didn’t make my other half wrinkle his face in disgust gets MAJOR brownie points. Gower were showing their Rhossili gin, celebrating the younger years of Dylan Thomas. The Rhossili edition is bottled at 45% and includes sea buckthorn and Rhossili gorse flower to give it a twist. It’s a lovely light gin with citrusy notes and a little more kick from that higher ABV. Also, who doesn’t love a distillery with a guard cat?
This is already getting too long, and I haven’t spoken about half the people I’d like to. Bruce from Brentingby who’s a bit of a legend and one with a pink gin that isn’t a horribly sweet fruity thing but a good, proper pink gin! Steven and Sue from Tappers who again were so friendly and informative could have sat chatting to them for ages. Keep an eye out for their upcoming Brightside release which is a distilled version of their delicious compound Darkside gin.
Duck & Crutch, Seppeltsfield Road, York and their amazing Cacao (which I really want to try in a Negroni). John and Cynthia from Locksley Distilling who have been one of my long term favourites had their new Raspberry & Cardamon concoction which was delicious (Their Anti pink gin pink gin). I could go on for ages, but frankly, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already done well. I’ll leave you with a picture of the haul and a few random pics!