Junipalooza was brought to Melbourne by some of the biggest gin consumer resources available, Gin Foundry and The Gin Queen. With reputations and interests that stretch globally, the combined force and passion of these two produced a carefully curated exhibition of charismatic makers and top-notch gin. In such a big world where individuals and small businesses can easily get lost in the vast choices available, consumers are craving connection and unique experiences. Junipalooza effectively taps into the inherent appeal of new wave gin: the ability to connect with the maker’s origin story and intent. And in our pursuit of fabulous gins and distillers willing to share their stories, we also found connections with each other.
Many who attended will notice that all were greeted on arrival by Caroline, the Gin Queen herself! Once we and our intrepid friends were tagged and handed our Plumm tasting glasses we immediately entered the fray. Gin is a spirit currently evolving at a rapid rate, the combinations of aromas and tastes infinite but, strikingly, when talking to the makers the one common element that comes up again and again is a reverence for the history of the liquor. The phrase we heard most was “gin at its core is about… and we wanted to stay true to that while…”.
When engaging in a delicate process of combining different botanicals, in some cases up to 26, it seems prudent to first know the rules before you break them. Some makers emphasised to us the importance of balance, yet others spoke of their preference for selecting a primary note and letting the other botanicals lift it up. What excites us about gin is the ability of the recipe to tell a story, from personal experiences of growing up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, friends growing up together in Adelaide or striking out on your own to make your mark, to the story of the landscape such as the native rainforest planted in Byron Bay, a garden grown on an historic colonial estate or Mildura’s famous regional produce.
Awarded Silver Medals across his full range of gin at the 2018 International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC), George Burgess from Southern Wild Distillery partners with local Tasmanian growers to make a unique range of seasonal gins. Originally a food technologist, George told us that making gin is his ultimate rebellion. Where before it was his job to standardise food, now he can make a product whose strength is that it deliberately changes with the seasons. When seeking his flavour profiles, George invested time with neighbouring farmers learning about what was on offer and in doing so has been able support growers in ways that supermarkets and grocers who serve produce fresh were not. This unique approach has resulted in a sweet, aromatic saffron gin and a strawberry gin that has almost been completely sold out in pre-release. We loved George’s Ocean Gin with a dash of Fever Tree Light Indian tonic water.
To our advantage, one of our earliest stops along the gin fest train was with Swedish distillery Hernö. Here with our tastings we were regaled with the history of gin, Old Tom, the sweet, underground sister to gin which is now having a renaissance of its own; London Dry, the mother of them all; Navy strength -the proof that couldn’t stop gunpowder from lighting; and sloe gin – made from the berries in the hedgerows. Clued up, the gin festival was then an exercise for us in comparing each distiller’s take on the London Dry and seeing if we preferred the more contemporary, edgy styles coming through. For us the London Dry was all about the sessional – could we sit on a glass or three with some tonic and while away the afternoon chatting with friends? The big standouts for us were Kilderkin’s Larrikin London Dry and Melbourne locals Patient Wolf. We’re huge fans of contemporary gins that feature lemon myrtle and other native botanicals, so McHenry’s Federation Gin and Brookie’s Dry rated highly in our books. We’re also pretty fun loving so Fossey’s Naval and family pup-inspired Bellarine Distillery’s Teddy & the Fox absolutely captivated our tastebuds and elicited a chuckle. Winning on the floral notes were Seppeltsfield Rd Distiller’s House Gin and Patient Wolf’s Summer Thyme, these had delightful bouquets and held all the promise of sunshine in each draw.
Infused and sloe gin seemed to be in a class all of its own, varying in approach and style. Some distillers favoured a sweeter style and others preferred a different red berry altogether! Going three for three, our preferred sloe gin was Patient Wolf’s Blackthorn, it was very subtle and balanced. Then there were McHenry’s deep and bold Damson plum gin and Brookie’s light Slow Gin, infused with Davidson’s plum. All would be delicious on ice or with a dash of cool CAPI soda.
What struck us again and again when talking to these wonderful makers was the community they have created with local growers, brewers, other distillers, and how they have made space for their family and friends to share in their passion. This openness and generosity were certainly reflected back in the Junipalooza crowd, we shared stories, floor space and laughs with strangers at every booth all knowing that we had something as fascinating as gin in common.
Melburnian Guide To thanks Junipalooza for a press pass to Junipalooza 2018.