The Gin Box reports back on Junipalooza 2018

The Gin Box founder and gin fanatic Jean Buckham gives us the lowdown on the best parts of Junipalooza and whether she’ll be booking her tickets for a repeat experience…

‘Whether you are a seasoned pro or this is your very first foray into the Gin World, Junipalooza transports one into a parallel universe of All things Gin.’ The opening line of the 2018 Junipalooza guide that I received as I walked through the doors sends the message: “all are welcome” right from the get-go. Now in its fifth year, Junipalooza is much bigger than it was when it kicked off in 2013. According to the organisers, Emile and Olivier at GIN FOUNDRY, back then there were just a handful of brands and only a couple of hundred in attendance. Today, it’s an international show with thousands of people descending upon London and includes Melbourne and Hamburg editions on the same day, all arranged by Gin Foundry.

“Junipalooza is as much about the spirit of the maker as the spirit they make.”

Gin Foundry’s ethos for the show is to celebrate the distillers themselves. And they do that very well. Junipalooza is as much about the spirit of the maker as the spirit they make. You don’t just get told what botanicals are in a gin and which flavours to expect, you also get to know the people behind it, their personalities, their methods, their ideas and enthusiasm, as well as what they are up to next.

The skinny on Junipalooza 2018

Junipalooza is run over the course of 2 days in 3 sessions and differs from SA gin festivals in that you are offered neat gin to taste at each of the 75 odd stalls. Each had a small, simple stall comprised of palates turned on their sides which were used as makeshift bars.  It was amazing to taste gin from Portugal, Japan, Kenya, the US and even one from SA.

This year for the first time Gin Foundry introduced experiential rooms. There was a live distillation with Warner Edwards where each attendant bottled their own 200ml bottle of gin, a pop-up Gibson bar with Copperhead Gin, a Gin School with Fever Tree, and a makeshift Gin Bothy with Caorrun Gin.

As you walked in the doors, you were handed a keepsake tasting glass, a 28-page booklet with all the distillers’ details and a much-needed bottle of Hildon Mineral water.

Eight tonic water vendors were displaying including Fever-Tree, Fentimans, Franklin & Sons, Sekforde, Nordesia, Lowlander, Merchant’s Heart and our very own The Duchess.

Amongst the gin distillers exhibiting were Edinburgh Gin, Four Pillars Gin, Sharish Gin, 58 Gin, Pothecary, Poetic Licence, Herno, Sacred, CopperHead and so many more.

This year the organisers introduced 2 Bursary Awards one local, which was awarded to Fynoderee from the Isle of Man, and proudly, Six Dogs Distillery from the Karoo. Six Dogs gin was a firm favourite with many attendees and flew the SA flag proudly. I have to say I felt very proud seeing Six Dogs and The Duchess there representing SA!

There was a small Newcomers Tasting Zone where brand spanking new distillers not yet on the market but who have enormous potential were showing their gin. According to Gin Foundry, ‘This umbrella stand is a safe-haven for those who are still finding their feet and for those almost-but-not-quite-ready to launch gin brands to put their gins in front of knowledgeable, friendly audience.’ Notable tastings from this zone was Procera Distillery from Kenya which contained Kenyan Juniper berries.

Is the gin craze waning?

The UK is definitely not slowing down on this Gin Revival. If anything it’s become a whole lot more intense! One of the first (and possibly biggest) craft gin companies Edward Warner Distillery recently launched a pink rhubarb gin which has exploded and may be behind the recent colour trend which the UK are enjoying at the moment – much to the horror of the purists. Gordons has introduced a pink summer gin which just shows the pressure the bigger brands are feeling to maintain market share.

“ I was also very encouraged to confirm my belief that South Africa is producing some really good gins that are able to stand up to international gins.”

The encouraging thing is that the UK also appears to be experiencing a large number of new sub-standard gins, so much so that Hayman’s Gin recently launched their Real Gin campaign to champion gin as a juniper-forward spirit. The campaign titled as ‘STOP FAKE GIN’ has reached global status and shows our favourite spirit’s challenge in these interesting times. Having said that, I was also very encouraged to confirm my belief that South Africa is producing some really good gins that are able to stand up to international gins.

In my opinion this was the most professional festival I have attended. Attendees were encouraged to meet the makers and discuss the gins. Very few people were intoxicated and many were genuinely interested in tasting the gins neat and discussing the signature botanicals. Stalls were simple and not over the top and allowed distillers to focus on what is important – the gin itself.

Will I be back? DEFINITELY!