Another year, another World Gin Day, another Junipalooza London
Junipalooza London 2019 was on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th June this year, Gin Foundry’s 6th annual celebration of gin. For those of you who don’t know what all the fuss is about, Junipalooza London is probably the biggest (and best) expo for gin – in the world. A must for gin fans.
For my review of last years event, take a peek here.
Junipalooza London took place once again in Tobacco Dock in Wapping in a Grade I listed warehouse, once used for storing tobacco shipped into the dock, and now converted into an events venue. With its vaulted brick chambers and ironwork, it is a beautiful building and perfect in its new role as an events venue. Easy to get to by DLR (get off at Shadwell) or you can walk from Tower Bridge in 10 minutes via the path from St Katherine’s Dock.
There were 3 sessions: Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm and a longer session on Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. Early bird tickets were available before Christmas for both sessions. I booked early with another gin lover for the Saturday session on World Gin Day.
So What Was New this Year?
The format is so successful that it is hard to improve. Last year there were 65 distillers and mixer companies. This year there were 80 exhibitors in total, 68 of them gin distillers. With a lot of them showcasing 3 or 4 expressions, that’s an awful lot of gin!
And with the expansion of the Newcomer Zone from 4 newcomers to 6, any gin lover was spoilt for choice. In fact, it is impossible to get around all the stands in 4 hours so it makes sense to plan your route!
Last year the entrance and exit were the same: through the back door and down a flight of steps. The entrance this year was on the dockside of the building. The intention was clearly to make for a more scenic entrance. Although the rusting replica trading ships, a hangover from the days when Tobacco Dock was a shopping centre and the ships were used for kids to play on, could do with a makeover.
The queue was fairly long by the time we got there, about 10 minutes before the event started. But once the doors were open the queue quickly shrank and we were in the event in no time.
I have to say I preferred last year’s layout. Although, last year at Junipalooza London the entrance was essentially through an unremarkable back door the event ‘flowed’ better. The large space was cut in half, with the food stalls forming a backstop, making the event cosy and easy to navigate.
The venue itself, a maze of vaulted chambers, is more suited to large events and this year by coming in one entrance and going out through the opposite one the whole space had to be utilised, which it wasn’t. Even with the map, I confess I got a little lost at times (nothing to do with the gin by the way). And there were clear glimpses of behind the scenes activity which I didn’t want to see.
This is a minor point. But I do wish Gin Foundry would address this for next year. I would be quite happy to sacrifice the more ‘appealing’ dockside entrance to bring the event back to a more intimate feeling.
On entry, we were given a tasting glass, programme and a bottle of water each and we were on our way. There were spittoons everywhere if you wanted to sip and spit or rinse your glass out.
The stands were made out of rough wooden planks and very much in keeping with the industrial theme of the space. The distillers made a real effort with their stands. My favourite had to be Twelve Keys with their display of fresh figs, coffee beans and pomegranate. It looked so pretty.
The Newcomers Zone
First up was Brass Lion Distillery from Singapore with exotic botanicals like torch ginger and chrysanthemum, followed closely by Sandhills from Surrey. Sandhills intrigued me with their hybrid distilled gin and golden gorse as one of its botanicals. Jaisalmer, a big brand from India, followed with their signature botanical of Darjeeling green tea. I’m a big fan of Scottish gins and Mackintosh from Arbroath in Angus didn’t disappoint.
The guys from Opera Gin were great fun. A family business based in Budapest, their gin is the first gin from Hungary and poppy seeds are their key botanical and found in pretty much all Hungarian food from what I was told!
Last in the Newcomers Zone, but my personal favourite, was ARC from Full circle Distillery in the Philippines. A long list of botanicals I had never heard of: Davao pomelo, Sagada oranges, Baguio lemons, dalandan, Benguet pine buds and calamansi, a citrus hybrid, made up for a lovely fresh tasting gin with a sophisticated citrus flavour. The first craft gin in the Philipines despite the country’s massive gin consumption.
The Bursary Spot
The Bursary Spot was taken this year by Downton Distillery and their Explorer’s Gin launched in December last year. Fresh and bright, one of its key botanicals is red cedar. We were given some to nibble on and the taste was surprisingly good. I was expecting strong resinous pine and instead found myself tasting apple. A fabulous gin in a beautiful bottle. One to watch for future expressions.
I’m a sucker for savoury gins, There just aren’t enough of them in my opinion. So I was delighted to sip this savoury Irish Maritime gin, a coastal gin from Donegal which uses 5 locally harvested varieties of seaweed in its production. And you can certainly taste the sea in the bottle. The gin has a light, pleasant salty taste. The deep seaweed green bottle isn’t half bad either.
Despite this being one of my ‘local’ gins it was one I hadn’t tried before. At only a year old it has gone from strength to strength. The serve with a coffee bean and fresh fig complemented the honey, apricot and quince botanicals and was well, just damn tasty!
The smell of fresh strawberries tempted me over to the Bullards stand. Bullards are another Norfolk gin. I am familiar with all 3 of their gins and tasted their Old Tom gin at its launch earlier this year. It is a beautifully smooth Old Tom with a hint of grapefruit and my favourite of the 3. They are perhaps more well known for their Strawberry and Black Pepper Gin.
I love the fact that a lot of the distillers make the effort to come from all parts of the globe. And while there were quite a few Australian gins there, Manly Spirits for one, I have a soft spot for South African gins. Amber Orient by Time Anchor from Jo’burg was a delicious gin with the key botanical of heuningbos or honeybush. The stunning bottles came beautifully presented in a box too.
Cocktails syrups are big over the Atlantic, much more so than over here where in the UK tonic is king. This company from Montreal, Canada has a small but fantastic range of flavours: Ginger Ale, Honey, Tonic made with real chincona bark and Spritz. I tried them all and it was hard to choose a favourite, they were all so good. But as a citrus fan, I settled on the Spritz Syrup made with grapefruit, cranberries and orange zest as I think it would quite a versatile little syrup to have. I look forward to a few experiments.
There were 4 experiential rooms or zones again this year: Warner’s Gin, Citadelle Gin, 6 O’Clock Gin and Franklin & Sons. These sessions are extra and have to be booked in advance.
Last year we booked in at Warner’s Gin room and thoroughly enjoyed the talk. But we found that the time spent in the room, typically 45 minutes, meant we couldn’t get round to all the distillers we had wanted to.
So this year we went session free and as a consequence had a more relaxed time of it. Though I still think 4 hours isn’t enough. I wanted to go back the next day but we had a train to catch.
As always our last stop was the Gin Kiosk to order and pick up our chosen bottles. A slight glitch, some of the prices on the computer system didn’t match the prices the distillers were advertising. Soon sorted and within a couple of minutes we collected our gins and staggered off under the weight of our purchases. Only kidding. Well almost!
It would be a shame to end this post without mentioning all the hard work and passion put in by the exhibitors. It is a joyful and much-anticipated event indeed. A firm fixture on the ginthusiasts calendar. Cheers to Gin Foundry for another brilliant Juniapalooza London!
A Few More Junipalooza London Pics