How do you celebrate World Gin Day? Ma, Christelle and I went to Junipalooza at the Tabacco Docks. Junipalooza is run by the Gin Foundry and in it’s fourth year but it’s the first time I’ve been we decided to go after the Ginvent speed tasting last Christmas, it’s run by the same people and we had a good time and it was really interesting.

Junipalooza is bigger, 55 distillers and 115 gins, it’s less intimate than the speed tasting was with less chance to really dig into the origins of the gin. We opted for the 11am to 3pm session and that worked out to more or less the right amount of time, although we didn’t get to everyone.

The stand outs for me all seemed to be non-British gins but there were some in there. This is not an exhaustive list just what I remember we tasted and what stood out.

The first gin we tried was the Conniption from Durham Distillery. I thought that this was Durham Distillery in North East England. It was not, it was the US Durham Distillery in North Carolina. Despite it not being what I thought it was, we tasted it. They have two gins, the American Dry gin and the Navy Strength. I prefered the Navy Strength, which they served with grapefruit tonic from East Imperial. That was clearly one of the stand out’s because I bought a bottle, it makes a fantastic martini.

Masons Yorkshire Gin was showing it’s dry gin, lavender gin and tea gin. We all liked the dry gin, none of us liked the lavender and I really liked the tea gin, it had a lovely tannic dryness to it, while Ma found that it tasted burnt. It’s on my list to buy at some point.

Helsinki Gin was also great, when we were tasting it I couldn’t work out what was going on with the taste as I got the juniper and citrus but there was something else. Turned out it was lingonberries. Helsinki Gin is distilled in the first distillery opened in Helsinki since Finnish prohibition which ended in 1932. Although they are more interested in making whisky (which I’d be interested in trying), this is a brilliant gin and is also on the list of things I need to buy.

Moving from things I want to buy to things I bought. De Borgen Genever (pronouced like the Swiss city – who knew?). Genever is the parent of gin. It was William of Orange who introduced it to the English when he came over to take the throne in 1688 during ‘The Glorious Revolution’. Starting in 1689, the Government passed a range of legislation that aimed to restrict brandy imports and encourage gin production, which sparked the gin craze and gin changed, first into Old Tom and then as London Dry.  De Borgen were showing three spirits, Holland Gin, which is probably the closest to gin as it is drunk nowadays, Old Style Genever, more like the genever produced in the 18 century and Malt Genever. Their suggestion is that you’d use the Holland Gin where you’d use gin and want the juniper forward ‘ginny’ taste, martini or a gin and tonic for instance. The Old Style Genever either straight up or in a martinez or negroni and the Malt Genever on it’s own or in a manhattan. The Malt Genever did have a whiskey-ish feel to it but less whiskey body. We’ve made a  manhattan with it and Ma dubbed it ‘a summer manhattan’, it’s definitely lighter but it’s very interesting. It was an education…

We also tried  Dodd’s Gin which I didn’t much like but I loved the Old Tom, Christelle thought it was musty!  Herno, which has had rave reviews but I wasn’t keen although I liked the Old Tom (sensing a theme here). The Isle of Wight Distillery was showing their Mermaids Gin and their HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin, I thought the Mermaids was ok but was more floral than I prefer, but I really liked the Navy Strength, of course I did!.

Dà Mhìle Distillery from Wales (I thought it was Irish) were showing their botanical gin and their seaweed gin and Ma and I had the strangest reaction of the day. We both like juniper forward gins (I come by it honestly) and I found the botanical gin to be really perfumey and floral and not in a good way. Ma said it tasted of the seaside. She didn’t like the seaweed gin and I really did. Strange.58 Gin, is a cocktail gin, it showed better straight and with water, than in tonic. It’s made in Hackney Downs, by an Australian, prompting Ma to name it the ‘hipster gin’ but it was lovely and smooth while still having body and tasting like gin (something the Helsinki had in spades too!). She bought a bottle, I think it’ll make an amazing martini.

Next door to 58 Gin, was Four Pillars. They were showing, the Rare Dry Gin, the Navy Strength, the Spiced Negroni Gin and their Bloody Shiraz Gin. The Navy Strength was really in your face but worked well with tonic to round out it’s edges. The Spiced Negroni, made for making negronis was the one I really liked and the Bloody Shiraz was a sloe type gin and too sweet at first but rounding out..

We also tried the Colombo No 7 from Rockland Distillery, this was a Sri Lankan gin. Actually it’s not, it’s actually made here. This is because of the owner of Rockland’s being worried about a crackdown on alcohol in Sri Lanka (better explanation here). However, the recipe is based on one developed during WWII, to provide gin when trade routes were shut down. I wasn’t sure that I’d like it but as a gin and tonic it was ace, it’s a ‘summer’ gin, something to drink when its hot outside and also on the ‘to buy’ list.

I know I like Tarquin’s but they were showing a new gin, I didn’t get the details but it had elderflower in it and I didn’t like it. Christelle bought a bottle of the Seadog, which is my favourite one.

Looking through the booklet, Ma wanted to taste the McHenry Gin because it was made in Tasmania. This was the gin’s introduction to the UK and was a classic gin, I liked the sloe, the classic and the Federation, which is being made especially for the Australian Parliament is uses  more bush ingredients, and is lovely, recognisably gin and recognisably Australia. I really liked McHenry, I hope it gets a distributor and if they ever need someone to man the booth (the person who wasn’t Bill McHenry didn’t know enough about the gin) I’d be happy to do it!

More tasting, took us through Hven, which no one liked although I liked the bottle. Cotswolds Gin which was unusual, it’s a gin for drinking straight with ice and it louches cause of the amount of oils in it. I didn’t try it in a gin and tonic but I could see this working in cocktails really well.

The New York Distilling Company were showing their Perry’s Tot and Dorothy Parker gins. I liked the Perry’s Tot (on the list it goes!) but found the Dorothy Parker a bit American. Which is to say that some American gins are a bit nothingy. I can’t describe it much better than that, I could see it in a gin rickey but I have doubts about it standing up to tonic or shining in a martini. They also make a rye whiskey but alas were not showing it.

The last thing I bought was the Slingsby Rhubarb Gin. Christelle had recently bought the Warner Edwards Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin (they were there but we didn’t get around to them!) and described it as weird. I liked the Slingsby version, it wasn’t too sweet but was lovely and rhubarby, good with tonic and I can absolutely see it going well in a glass of fizz. Ma tried the straight version and rated it, so there’s another one on the list.So that was Junipalooza 2017, as we did it. We will definitely go again it was an enjoyable and educational experience and we have lots of picks for the next couple of gin clubs.

About nicdempsey

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