World Gin Day
For World Gin day on Saturday 9th June this year I headed down to London with another gin lover for Junipalooza 2018 at Tobacco Dock. Junipalooza is an expo for gin. Organized by Gin Foundry this is Junipalooza London’s 5th year and they show no sign of slowing down or scaling back. Junipalooza is now international with editions in Melbourne and Hamburg too.
This year promised to be the best. Sixty-five distillers and several of the mixer companies aimed to showcase to us, the gin loving public, their delightful distillations. Gin heaven!
After fortifying pie and mash at Manzes in Southwark a few tube hops later we arrived at Shadwell on the DLR a five-minute walk away from the venue in Docklands. Tobacco Dock is the oldest dock in London and is a Grade I listed warehouse. As the name suggests it was originally used for warehousing tobacco. Now it is the venue for a whole variety of events.
From the outside Tobacco Dock doesn’t look much. We had checked it out on Google Earth and it didn’t look very promising. Just a great big industrial building. We were expecting high ceilings, lots of metal and a chilly temperature. Nothing could have been further from that when we stepped inside. Imagine brick vaulted chambers and Victorian wrought iron. The bars for the distillers were all made of wooden pallets in keeping with the warehouse venue. It was beautifully done. The lighting was soft and it felt like we were stepping into a magical space.
Having bought our Early Bird tickets back in January to say we were super excited is an understatement. We had booked the Saturday afternoon slot between 4pm and 8pm. We arrived just before 4pm to find a small queue moving swiftly through the entrance.
On arrival, we were handed a tasting glass each and a programme. Junipalooza is zoned with Meet the Maker zones and the Experience rooms of which there were four. Warner Edwards, Caorunn, Fever-Tree and Copperhead all ran their own experience room this year. We were advised beforehand that these were popular and you needed to book on arrival, so we booked ourselves into the Warner Edwards – Junipalooza Gin room at the end of the four hours. We figured we might need a nice sit down at the end!
The Newcomers Zone
Armed with a Junipalooza map, which we had highlighted in true gin nerd fashion we set off into one of the Meet the Maker rooms, homing in first on the Newcomers Zone.
Procera Gin, GinT, Cuckoo Gin, Hapusa Gin and The Woodlab Distillery were all temptingly lined up. We tasted Procera first. A Kenyan Gin we were expecting something quite, well unsophisticated. In fact, it was a super sophisticated gin with delicate complex flavours using East African botanicals and bottled in handmade glass for the first edition. Definitely juniper forward but with a light hand.
The Hapusa guys from India with their Himalayan Dry Gin were very entertaining and their gin, which as you would imagine uses Indian botanicals, was smooth, spicy and earthy. The turmeric was a little bit too strong for us to be honest. If they toned the turmeric down it would be an amazing and unusual gin.
After the Newcomers Zone, we headed to Puddingstone to try their Campfire Gin. Puddingstone are a husband and wife team, Ben and Kate Marston. We had read about their cask-aged gin and wanted to try some. Kate told us their gin was aged for 22 weeks in the cask. Not a whisky lover I imagined the gin would be bitter with the sharp tannin taste I associate with whisky. Nothing could have surprised me more. The gin had a vanilla smoothness to it that didn’t smother the juniper. It was delicious. The botanicals are juniper, orris, coriander, angelica, rooibos, goldenberry, roasted hazelnut, lavender, fresh orange peel and fresh grapefruit peel. This is definitely one to try as a sipping gin. Preferably sitting around a campfire!
Fynoderee Manx Dry Gin
Six Dogs was on the agenda next but Fynoderee Manz Dry Gin caught our eye as we headed past. Their bottles are a delight to look at with labels that are a work of art. Another husband and wife team, Tiffany and Paul Kerruish were at Junipalooza as the UK bursary spot. Distilling on the Isle of Man using local botanicals Tiffany was keen for us to try their Winter Gin. Their gins are seasonal with a Spring Gin and a Winter Gin already bottled and a Summer Gin on the way. Although both were cracking gins, the Winter Gin had the edge for us, juniper-forward and crisp.
On to Six Dogs, the International bursary spot, from South Africa. They had brought along their Karoo Gin and Karoo Blue. Karoo is a family affair with brothers Charles and Glenn Bryant and friend Luigi Marucchi the force majeure behind the distillery.
The Karoo is a semi-desert part of SA famed for its plants like the thorn flower and wild lavender. The farmers that graze their sheep there are said to produce some of the best-tasting mutton in SA. It is a remote part of SA and if you live there you can go days without seeing another human being.
Anyway, back to gin. The Karoo Gin botanicals are thorn flower, wild lavender, juniper, lime, mandarin, lemon buchu, cassia, chamomile, angelica and acacia thorn. It was a respectable gin with a decent flavour. However, it was the Karoo Blue that caught our eye. The Karoo Blue is coloured with the butterfly pea flower but the main flavour comes from rose pelargonium. This was my favourite, although I’m not sure the butterfly pea adds to the flavour. The rose pelargonium certainly does. Six Dogs isn’t available in the UK at the moment but the guys are hoping to find a distributor soon.
After ping-ponging about a bit from stand to stand we almost walked past Verdant Spirits. Verdant is one of those gins that flies under the radar a bit. No bells and whistles and exotic botanicals. Just a straightforward damn fine cocktail gin. It has won awards too. A gold at the Scottish Gin Awards in 2017 and a gold at The Spirits Business 2017. Unsurprisingly we bought a bottle.
Stefan from Gin Eva, one of only two distilleries in Mallorca, was a very knowledge and enthusiastic exponent of his trio of gins. Tasting all three: the citrussy Mallorcan Dry Gin, the savoury Olive Extra Dry and the Bergamot Dry, we particularly liked the bergamot for its unusual flavour.
It was great chatting to the girls on the Fentimans stand next. Pinching a bit of Rhubarb Gin from Slingsby ‘next door’ they mixed us a great little cocktail using their rose lemonade. A fantastic summer drink.
Finally, we had one more gin to try before our Warner Edwards experience and it was a gem. I say one, actually, it was two: Blackwater Distillery‘s dry Irish Gin and their Wexford Strawberry Irish Gin. Both were outstanding with clean juniper tastes and complex flavours. The strawberries are distilled in the gin rather than infused. The taste was sublime and by far the best strawberry gin we have tasted. Peter, the distiller, mixed us a great G&T with Franklin Sicilian lemon tonic, cracked black pepper, fresh strawberry and basil. Divine!!!
The Warner Edwards Experience Room
The Warner Edwards distillation masterclass was a fitting end to our Junipalooza jaunt. Tom, Jeremy and Lois were enthusiastic and engaging taking us through the fascinating Warner Edwards story in front of their beautiful Holstein still ‘Satisfaction’. At the end, we were given our own Junipalooza bottle to label and wax. The gin was their London Dry Gin as the base botanicals and additional ones as the result of a Facebook poll. It was quite delicious and a with a lovely goody bag to take away.
Our final destination of the day was a Gin Kiosk to order and pick up our chosen bottles. This was well organised like the rest of the event. Within minutes of ordering our gins, we had picked them up in a strong jute bag together with a complimentary Gin Foundry tasting wheel.
Chin chin to Gin Foundry for another brilliant Juniapalooza!