With Junipalooza and World Gin Day bang in the middle of the month June was always going to be busy, but I’m not sure I was prepared for quite so much fun. From canal boats to saunas there’s certainly plenty to catch up on again!
It’s been an unremittingly challenging couple of years for the gin industry (as I discuss in my latest article for Spirits Beacon) and, with the news that Gordon’s has lost 15% of its value in UK supermarkets and Bombay is down 34.2%, we should be braced for further contraction and crystallisation in the market. However, as Olivier Ward asserts, the numbers for medium-sized gin brands are actually quite positive and many producers still feel confident in the premium market, especially Tarquin’s Gin who have just claimed the position of number one best-selling super premium gin brand in the UK (according to IWSR 2021)!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Scapegrace Distilling Company have announced plans to build New Zealand’s largest ever distillery in Central Otago. With carbon neutrality at the forefront of their ambitions, Scapegrace has decided to switch from traditional fossil fuel boilers to electrode boilers. The structure of the building will also be constructed from timber rather than steel, and a regenerative planting programme will see $150,000 worth of native Kanuka replanted on the site. The first building – which will contain the new head office, bottling hall, warehouse and the first barrel room – is due to be open in August.
New Gin Alerts
With its stunning green bottle Mermaid Zest Gin – featuring grapefruit, rosemary and cascade hops – has caught everyone’s eye, but I’ve also been tempted by Puddingstone Distillery’s summer edition of their PUD PUD Gin created using organic Peruvian cacao nibs, and Earthly Spirits Gin created by Cooper King Distillery for Selfridges, and described as “a fresh, vibrant mix of rich cardamom and juniper, interlaced with juicy citrus and floral honey notes from the distillery’s own hives.” And, jumping on the booze-free bandwagon, Australia’s Four Pillars has also added two zero-ABV versions of its Rare Dry Gin and Bloody Shiraz Gin to their line-up.
My Month in Gin
After a relatively quiet first week, June went into overdrive, kicked off with the Gin Guild’s Ginposium which I was delighted to attend on a press pass. New Director General, Pal Gleed, opened the event which incorporated fascinating talks alongside plenty of networking opportunities. While all the talks were interesting and informative, one of the highlights was undoubtedly Kathy Caton of Brighton Gin and Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers discussing routes for new brand launches; Charles’ examples of contracting elsewhere – such as within the automotive industry – were particularly powerful and pertinent. Unsurprisingly, I also really enjoyed all the talks which were accompanied by samples, including Ben Marston of Puddingstone Distillery’s talk on coriander and David T Smith’s tutored tasting which included Citadelle’s outstanding new Cornichon Gin! A special mention also goes to David Pool, Co-Founder of smarter.ai, whose advice on being successful in 2022 applies equally well to spirits communicators as producers.
This year I was treated to free tickets for all three sessions at Junipalooza and I absolutely loved every minute (and still didn’t manage to see absolutely everyone I wanted to)! One of the highlights for me was undoubtedly catching up with old friends and new – producers and gin geeks alike – and it also really warmed my heart to see Hapusā gracing the entrance; if they weren’t already one to watch, they certainly are now!
The gin is, however, the reason we all go and that definitely did not disappoint. As always I was drawn to the new brands and gins and there were plenty to keep me busy. The newcomers room was particularly impressive this year including Brighton’s Contractor’s Dry Gin with its prominent notes of lemongrass, DOJA’s Indo-Japanese Gin created by a former Thames Distiller, Mousehall’s beautiful 100% post-consumer recycled glass bottle, and Green Room Distillery’s impressive selection of gins and vodka. But there was plenty else to get excited by including new releases from Mermaid Gin, Tarquin’s, Bobby’s and Biggar among others.
Hot on the heels of Junipalooza (and with quite a few of the same faces in attendance!) we headed to Hackney’s 58 and Co. to celebrate 15 years of The Global Spirits Masters and 150 editions of The Spirits Business. Alongside the announcement of a new medal design for The Global Spirits Masters, we enjoyed a wonderful selection of drinks – including Portofino Gin and the Delevingne sisters’ Della Vite Prosecco – and a magnificent masterclass from The Lost Explorer Mezcal which truly ignited my interest in all things agave. Alongside some fantastic company it really was a night to remember.
I also spent a wonderfully sunny evening on The Boathouse in London’s Paddington Basin celebrating the Martini with The Boatyard Distillery and Cocchi. I’ve long been a fan of Fermanagh’s juniper-rich Boatyard Double Gin so needed no convincing on that front, but it was wonderful to learn more about the Cocchi range, including their delicious new Vermouth di Torino Extra Dry, and indulge in a few cocktails and canapés with some of the best in the business.
And finally, and very randomly indeed, I attended the launch of The Finnish Sauna in the middle of London’s Victoria Embankment Gardens! Part of the London Festival of Architecture, the sauna was supported by Kyrö Distillery (among others) which makes perfect sense given that, as the makers joke, the company – like half the Finnish population – was conceived in a sauna!
I’ve been a huge fan of Kyrö (formerly Napue) Gin since it made my top ten in 2017, so it was a pleasure to revisit that alongside trying their Malt Rye Whisky and deliciously authentic Pink Gin created with strawberries and rhubarb. However it was their rich, indulgent and decadent Dairy Cream Liqueur – featuring a dash of that very special whisky – which simply blew me away!
Welcome to My Collection
I was delighted to receive June’s Craft Gin Club box which included a gin I had never even heard of before in the form of Astraea Spirits’ Meadow Gin, said to celebrate a sunny day amongst the Pacific North West mountain flowers. Much closer to home, I enjoyed a short stroll across my local park to take advantage of East London Liquor Company’s brilliant new scheme which allows you to refill any old gin bottle with their delicious spirits (and was also kindly gifted a couple of Kew Garden RTDs). Thanks also to the ever generous Alex at North Point Distillery who kindly bestowed upon me another bottle of his stunning Crosskirk Bay Gin (which made my top ten of 2021), and to the lovely Charlotte at The Pembrokeshire Gin Co. who very sweetly gifted me a bottle of her Welsh Cake Dry Gin after it brought back memories of my mother and reduced me to tears right in the middle of Junipalooza! And finally thank you to my sister-in-law Laura who picked up this stunning bottle of Ěstía London Dry Gin which features distilled olive brine which would otherwise go to waste.
And thanks to some wonderful brands at Junipalooza – as well as The Boatyard Distillery and Cocchi – I’ve also got some more magnificent minis and gorgeous gin pins to add to my collection, in addition to a specially mixed martini and The Proper Chocolate Company’s incredibly delicious dark chocolate, created using the spent botanicals from Boatyard Double Gin!
Catching Up and Looking Forward
Well… I haven’t yet written my roundup of #GinADayMay, or my Junipalooza review, but I have had a few other pieces published this month. If you haven’t already read it, why not check out my piece Shifting Sands and Rising Costs, looking at all the challenges currently facing gin producers from the ongoing consequences of covid to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Or, if sustainability is more your cup of tea, my article looking at how you make gin with less water is now live on the Gin Magazine website, and my most recent piece on environmentally friendly packaging is in issue 19, which is on sale now. I’ve got plenty more up my sleeve for July too including the next instalment of my sustainability series, Imbibe Live and a little IWSC judging! Until next time…🍸🛎🛎