The world of gin is a fast-paced one and there are few places where that is more evident than at Junipalooza. Last year, I attended as a lucky competition winner and it was that experience that spurred me on to start this blog. This year, I was fortunate enough to be invited back as a “gin-sider”, so to speak. And I’m not the only one: last year Finlay and Eileen Geekie attended as members of the public; this year they were behind the stall of their very own, highly acclaimed, Colonsay Gin.
Colonsay Gin were not the only new kids on the block though. Also representing the UK market were brands such as South London’s Graveney Gin and Lone Wolf, Brew Dog’s much-anticipated first spirit. Others were being showcased for the first time in this country, including Thailand’s tropical Iron Balls and South Africa’s unusual Cape Town Rooibos Red Gin. There were several familiar faces on parade as well, many of whom were unveiling their new and limited editions, including Poetic License‘s Cherry and Basil Gin; ngroni! from nginious!, and Tarquin‘s Yeghes Da Elderflower and Pink Grapefruit Gin.
I succeeded in trying about twice as many gins as last year, so I have lots of highlights but also a fair few fuzzy memories! One memory that remains clear as day, however, is the stunning sight of That Boutique-y Gin Company‘s table groaning under the weight of their enormous range. Their new additions included a stunning yet-to-be-released sloe gin and a Spit-Roasted Pineapple Gin (which definitely tasted of pineapple, but didn’t truly taste of gin). For the more traditional among us, they were also launching their World Gin Day Gin, made in collaboration with its founder, Emma Stokes aka Gin Monkey. Featuring botanicals from all seven continents, including sea-salt from Antarctica(!), it is a stunning, classic gin that I’m told makes a cracking martini.
Orkney’s Kirkjuvagr and 6 O’Clock Gin‘s new Brunel Edition (launching next month) were two more fantastic gins, for which you can expect reviews soon. And obviously I didn’t go home empty-handed; the two that made my shopping list were Pothecary‘s citrussy Sicilian Blend, made with Sicilian lemon peel, orange peel and organic almonds, and the modern American Conniption Navy Strength Gin featuring coriander, caraway, rosemary, cardamom, juniper, cassia, citrus and fig!
In many ways, Junipalooza reflects and represents the enormous growth in the gin market that we’ve witnessed recently. But it also goes one step further. We were promised bigger and better this year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. This year, there were more gins (with more than 50 distilleries and over 100 gins); more mixers (including Merchant’s Heart, and Franklin and Sons among others); more rooms, and more masterclasses than ever before. All this without losing sight of the meet-the-maker ethos that has always been at the heart of the event, and which makes it so special.
Whilst I daren’t claim to take any credit, it was also rewarding to see some of the constructive criticism I made in that first blog article being addressed. This year’s masterclasses were in their own dedicated space; maps were handed out on arrival (alongside informative little booklets); signage was vastly improved, and water and spittoons were in abundance!
So, is there room for improvement in 2018? Well, of course there is. As helpful as the map was, the numbers on it didn’t correlate to any signage on the individual stands. And to add further (potential) confusion, each stand was listed by the name of the distillery, which works perfectly well for the eponymous or big brands, such as Sipsmith or Hernö, but less well for those such as Wild Thyme (home to Colonsay Gin) and Glasgow Distillery (who did at least have the foresight to bring a vast illuminated sign spelling out the name of their most famous product, Makar).
But this is all pretty small fry: my real disappointment was finding that Black Tomato Gin had seemingly run dry! But I guess that’s the risk of attending an event like this on the second day. With so many gins to try, I think I’m just going to have to plan to attend both days in 2018. Although I suspect that comes with its own risks too…
With thanks to Olivier Ward of Gin Foundry for inviting me to attend Junipalooza.