(Part 1 – I ran out of steam and just found this in drafts! but will go back to it and finish off some words with the few photos I have. So think of it as a bit of a place holder for the moment)
It is now Monday and I can reflect on what a great time I (and my wife) had at Junipalooza over the past two days.
Initially, I was worried that I had angered the Gin gods in some way – perhaps it was that shot of Jaffa cake ‘gin’ I had had a few days ago? Anyway, our local train line was closed for the weekend and so travel to Tobacco docks was going to be a bit more involved and take a bit longer. This meant we had to leave home earlier than expected on Saturday morning and I had to miss out on my traditional Breakfast Martini that marks the start of Junipalooza and Word Martini Day – boo!
Anyway, in the end, the trip to Tobacco Dock was uneventful (if a bit slow) and we arrived at 10:40 in plenty of time for the start of Junipalooza. What follows is a summing up of the distilleries and Gins that stood out for me – mostly focusing on new distillers to me. Once again, I was concentrating on the experience and enjoying the Gins and the chat, and so I took very few photos.
Mousehall Distillery – Kent, England
This was my first port of call and had a little chat with Kathy and Christy Jordan and what brought them to England from Stellenbosch in South Africa. Their Gin is bright and lovely. Although the first day of Junipalooza and World Gin Day was their launch date their knowledge and expertise in the winery business were clearly evident from all aspects of their process, from stills and bottling line to bottle and packaging design through even to their media presence that walks you through the past year of setting up the brand (well worth a watch on their Instagram feed). There was even a bit of fun thrown in with some model Dorper sheep based on the ones they have on the estate. We aim to make a visit at some point soon.
Green Room Distillery – London, England
Green room distillery was started by a pair of friends in the theatre industry where lockdown gave the impetus to convert existing knowledge and previous acquisition of a still from another friend, into a new distillery brand and a selection of Gins and a vodka. From their Small Batch Dry Gin I was immediately getting the citrus of grapefruit along with some spices of cinnamon and cloves. Their Flymans Strength Gin super small batch of 30 bottles where the name is a reference to the men that worked in the theatre rigging – often ex-navy) is based on a similar botanicals although Juniper and others have been increased to allow for the extra ABV. It was great to hear about their journey and impressive to see that they had a large range already.
Manly Spirits – Manly, Australia
We already have some of Manly’s Gins and their vodka so wanted to try some of their other expressions. I had tried the Coastal Citrus before but wanted to try again – it has a marvelous mineral edge that really does remind you of a bracing sea-shore breeze.
We also tried the Lilly Pilly Pink – a slightly pink in colour fruity Gin but unsweetened.
We then fessed up that what we were really after buying was their Black Fin Coffee liqueur (as we have nearly run out at home) and we were lucky to find out that they did have a bottle that they could sell us – even though they had not really brought it to sell but for tasters. The Manly range is wide and we love that they have a Botanical Vodka that is effectively a Gin but without the Juniper.
Gin 1689 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Their Dutch Dry Gin is based on a decoded recipe from a very old book in the rare books section of the British library. The Gin is a warming combination of citrus and spices – almost a winter style of Gin a welcome change from many very citrussy Gins. Their more fruity Queen Mary Pink Gin is based on the Dry Gin as a base but with the addition of being steeped in Raspberries and Strawberries – fruity but not overly sweet. The recent history of finding and decoding the old recipe is an interesting one.
James Martin’s Gin – (Holland & Noble) Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Interestingly what makes this famous might be the reason why I might of skipped past this Gin as potentially having more PR than substance. However, the Distillers Holland and Noble are very up front about their involvement in the production of the Gin and that James Martin had identified the flavour profile. The openness was what drew me to tasting it. It has a punchy flavour profile starting as citrus and savoury, although the finish is quite sweet – confirmed as liquorice. Holland & Noble’s openness as the contracted distiller is to be congratulated. It does annoy me when other contracted spirits completely hide their provenance.
Comte de Grasse (44°N Gin) – Grasse, France
Grasse is well known to me for its importance for the perfume industry and the setting for German author Patrick Süskind’s book ‘Perfume’. The book (and film) conjure up big fragrances, and this Gin did not disappoint. Marie-Anne Contamin the Master distiller was on hand to guide us through their elaborate 3-stage process and flavour profile. My thoughts on floral Gins are softening as I realise that it isn’t the floral nature of a Gin that sometimes spoils the enjoyment of the Gin, but in fact, it is when those flavours are not correctly balanced that I lose interest. Clearly, Marie-Anne as an expert perfume industry aromatician and now Gin distiller meant that the Gin took me on a flavour journey which did not overpower me at any point. Over the course of Junipalooza a few of their cocktails from the bar were purchased and consumed.
Four Pillars – Australia
Isle of Raasay – Isle of Raasay, Scotland
We have Isle of Raasay Gin via our Gin subscription with The Gin Cooperative and also acquired another bottle on our recent scottish Gin tour.
Alasdair Day is a very entertaining and passionate about his whisky and Gin distillery. Sadly when we visited the main distillery was shut as it was a Sunday – although the scenery was stunning. However we were able to make an ‘honesty box’ purchase when we visited the shop on the isle – I could not resist a little leg pull about that.
Junimperium – Tallinn, Estonia
Their Gin is a favourite of mine and so we just popped by to say ‘hi’ to Aare Ormus their Ginchemist and Distiller. Their range has expanded since we last saw them and we took the chance to try a couple of the more fruity expressions.
They are a great example of the control and balance that blending distillates offers