These days I can barely get to the end of my road without using a Sat Nav! I genuinely think that, if I had been born in a bygone-era, I too could have been a heroic Christopher Columbus style figure (only rather than accidentally discovering America, it’d be more like I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and ended up in Basingstoke rather than Barnsley…).
But with Junipalooza 2019 racing up on us faster than you can say ‘wowzers, it’s nearly time for Junipalooza 2019!’, you’re in luck! With their trusty (and rather snazzy) site maps at hand, there will be no Sat Navs required, nor fear of getting lost.
I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to give my view on a ‘Top 5 Must See’ list to help give you some food (…gin) for thought when planning your route around the Junipalooza landscape!
The Gin Shelf Recommends…
In some ways, picking just five distilleries to shortlist from a lineup that is absolutely jam packed with incredible brands, was a heart wrenching task. Yet in other ways, my choices were made easy, and almost obvious, by the awesomeness of the teams that I’ve picked out.
In reality, you’re never going to be able to get around EVERY stand, try EVERY gin and talk to EVERY distiller in your short time at the festival – at least not if you want to make the most of your time or remember any of the experience the next day! But it is my hope that my suggestions will help to give you five gins that you should definitely consider having on your hit list for the big day.
I have taken a few short extracts from the related blog reviews I’ve written on each brand over the last number of years, with a link to the fuller write up on each included if you would like more information. Have a browse, mark them on your map and grab a glass…it is my sincere hope that my friends become your friends and that from my recommended map you will find a gin that you’ll never forget! I’m confident that all of these will bring a smile to your cheeky gin soaked chops!
Let’s start things off in the Newcomers Zone, with an absolute banger that is going to kick start your festival in style!…
Distilled and bottled in Angus, affectionately known as ‘the birth place of Scotland’ and full of Viking, Roman & Celtic history, Mackintosh is the gin scenes ‘new kid on the block’. And family is at the heart of this operation, run by its founders James (Jim) & Deborah, with their three daughters all involved in the brand.
On the nose, there is a real sense of sweet lemon zest and orange peels. Mixed with the unmistakable scent of zingy coriander, it is reminiscent of lemon sherbet boiled sweets.
When tasted neat, there are bigger & bolder orange notes than I was expecting, perfectly complemented by the warming sweet spice suggestions of cinnamon & ginger. There’s a delicious medicinal aniseed profile to the gin, delivered in a powerful (but not aggressive) hit. There is a brilliant balance of sweetness and spice on the pallet – the spice zings on the front of the tongue & up through your nose, whilst a sweet warmth hits the back of the throat. And throughout it all, those lush green, herbal qualities remain, showcasing the bright & almost grassy coriander.
I’ve not had a gin quite like it before, where the flavours and profile are so brilliantly clear and distinguishable without being masked by harsh booze. An impressive feat, given that Mackintosh still packs a 42% ABV.
What can I say about the team at Pothecary that I haven’t said before? Well. Very little actually, as I have said it all before! You can read more about their set up and raison d’etre in my previous reviews here:
Having tried, and loved, previous efforts in their flagship gin, and 2018’s Thai Blend, I have evangelically raved about them ever since.
But it’s the introduction of the 2019 Trinity Edition that has really won my heart…
Trinity was promised as a retort to the seemingly ever growing pool of ‘jump on the bandwagon, not real gin, throw as many sparkling glittery bits at it as possible, hide the ingredients in fear, claim this is small batch/artisan/boutique product to boost sales, write craft on the bottle because it sounds good, best make it really colourful’ gins hitting the market (cough…excuse my rant while I climb down from my soap box). So a fight back in liquid form if you will.
It is a gin I can’t see myself being without. I want it as an ever present on my gin shelf. So much so that the title of ‘limited edition’ has the scares on me a little! Not to disrespect the rest of the range, and they are all incredibly good, but it almost feels like Pothecary have been building up the Trinity Edition. Grab it while you can…
Locksley Distilling Co; Sir Robin of Locksley (41)
Full disclosure. I’ve spent a lot of time with this gin & their fantastic team, even lending some of my time to supporting them at tasting events (which as a neutral blogger is not an investment I take lightly). The reason I am always happy to be associated with such an awesome brand is simple. It is a great gin, passionately crafted and made by people who care. It’s fast become one of my all time favourite gins and a real game changer for anyone I can convince to give it a go! (I’ll be honest – it never takes much convincing…).
On the nose, juniper, pink grapefruit & elderflower leap from the glass. It is citrus forwards, but without an aggressive alcohol heat to its nature. The more unique inclusion of dandelion as a botanical is where things get really interesting. Whilst delivering some subtle earthy notes, it is invited to the party for its inherent ability to naturally tone down the aggression of the alcohol on the pallet, but not at the expense of altering the flavour profile. This means that there is no need for the famous ‘gin face’ that so many pull when sampling a neat gin for the first time – very clever indeed!
This gin works on so many levels it’s untrue. First off, as far as a sipping gin goes this is top dog! Served over ice it’s a winner, with a mouth feel similar to a bourbon or whiskey. However, my signature serve and ‘go to’ is as a gin & tonic, using a light premium tonic water and a generous wedge of fresh pink grapefruit to harness those citrus flavours.
For me, this gin has it all. Complex, clever & extremely drinkable, this is what I serve to anyone wanting to know what gin is all about (with a 100% conversion rate to date). An incredible gin, with a great team of craft pioneers around it.
Four Pillars Gin (47)
Literally ANYTHING by the Australian heavy weights ‘Four Pillars’ is going to be incredible. They say that not all heroes wear capes…and when I met the team at Junipalooza in 2017 I’m slightly embarrassed to say I was almost a little star struck!
The guys at ‘Four Pillars’ live and die by the pillars that underpin their Gin making. No guesses for how many Pillars there are! (…Four. It’s Four…):
1) The Stills – we met ‘Wilma’ earlier, but she’s recently been joined by ‘Jude’ and ‘Eilleen’ (all named after the three Distillers Mothers).
2) The Water – from the Yarra Valley, of course!
3) The best Botanicals that Australia and the rest of the world have to offer.
And it’s number 4 that really stands out for me. These guys love what they do, and so do I!
Check out their Rare Dry & Bloody Shiraz for mind blowing effects!
Graveney Gin (66)
It was my great pleasure, on 23rd March, to exclusively announce that Graveney Gin would be appearing as an exhibitor at Gin Foundry’s Junipalooza Festival 2019.
Born out of Tooting, and passionately driven in to existence by ‘one woman whirlwind’ Victoria Christie (Graveney Gin’s Master Distiller), Graveney Gin may be a ‘Nano Batch’ gin in stature, but it has a huge amount of attitude and heart. And I’m more than a little bit smitten by the brand…
This is as classic a tale of ‘quit your day job in the banking sector & open up a gin distillery’ story as you’re going to come across. (What do you mean that’s not classic?!…)
There’s something very British and classic to the gin, yet also almost exotic given its African botanical influences. For me, this is a warm weather gin and is absolutely perfect for summer heat of the impending Junipalooza 2019!
After having first attended the ‘Gin Festival to end all Gin Festivals’ in her brands infancy back in 2017, this is a showcasing opportunity that Vic can barely contain her excitement for and can’t wait to see and hear people’s feedback on Graveney Gin! (and neither can I!).
With suggestions of two new gins in the offing, it’s the hope that there could well be a couple of Tooting based debuts on offer at the Graveney stand! And with stunning glassware and copper mugs recently launched, you’ll be able to pick up the perfect accompaniments to boot!
You can find my full write up on Graveney Gin, alongside an in-depth two part ‘Meet the Distiller’ interview with Master Distiller Vic Christie here:
The Gin Shelf’s Top Tips for Junipalooza
So there you have it. Five incredible gins, spanning just a few of the areas available for you to explore at what I still consider to be the best gin festival in the world.
I really hope you enjoy my recommendations and love these gins as much as I do. I’d love you hear your thoughts once you’ve had the opportunity to sample them for yourselves. And if you do get the chance to say hello to the fantastic teams behind the bottles, be sure to say hi from Matt @theginshelf. It’ll get you no more than a high five, but who doesn’t love a high five?!
And so before I part, here’s a few of my top tips to make the most of you Junipalooza experience:
1. Prep like a boss! Spend a little time reviewing the maps, familiarise yourself with the layout and where your favourite brands are going to be located.
2. Get your priorities in order. You’re unlikely to make it to every stand, so if you have some ‘must dos’ then be sure to hit them up first!
3. Don’t be late. There may be queues and stands will get busy. Give yourself the best chance of maximising your time by arriving promptly.
4. Be polite! The teams are going to be slammed and working their socks off. Sure the gin costs money, but manners are free…
5. Don’t drink & dash! This isn’t lunch time at CostCo. Samples are great, but make sure to stop and learn about what you’re drinking…
6. It’s good to talk. Make sure you take some time to chat to the passionate guys behind the stands. You don’t always get this kind of access to the masterminds of your favourite tipples!
7. Stay hydrated! Remember to use the water stations. If you’re drinking gin for long periods of time, those samples can add up!
8. Eating isn’t ‘cheating’! Fuel up on grub. You’re going to need it!
9. Education. Education. Education! Be sure to take advantage of the Experiential Zones (pre-booking may be requ) as well as checking out the free seminars.
10. Enjoy it! Simple as. This is the Christmas of Summer!
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates.
And if you spot me at Junipalooza, make sure you come and say ‘Hi’ & chat gin! Who knows, I may even give you a high five!