We’re (very) slowly recovering from a successful Junipalooza weekend. Tired limbs all around, heads held high and with voices that went from normal sounding, via Rod Stewart to mere gravely reverberations… It was all we expected it to be and more.
There were many highlights to discuss, but one in particular was watching – like proud parents – the two members of our bursary spots hold swathes of gin fans captive as they shared both their stories and their spirits. Hope on Hopkins and Pothecary well and truly lived up to our expectations; their liquids flew from shelves faster than we could stack them, keeping the Gin Kiosk helpers firmly on their toes and proving that there is still plenty of room for newcomers in a very busy market.
New producers like Ballyvolane House and the Isle of Wight Distillery also had gin fans enthralled, while well-established distilleries like Rock Rose, Tarquin’s Caorunn, Hayman’s and Sipsmith were never without a crowd. In fact, when we bumped into the Sipsmith team during the half time break on day one – they were half way to exhaustion, piled in a heap on the floor and looking entirely like marionettes who’d been abandoned by their puppet master mid-performance. Gin geeks ask a lot of questions.
The distillers that hopped on a plane or two to get here were also swamped; Skin Gin, NGinious!, Helsinki, Mt. Uncle, Long Table, Santamania and Sharish were forever juggling vast audiences, and the feedback that distillers got from festival goers lent much welcome confidence boosts to all we spoke to.
Distillers weren’t the only people who travelled to get there; gin fans ventured from far and wide – we had a good chat with a lady who’d made the journey from Texas to get her gin on and met a couple from Australia who’d planned their entire trip to England around attending (we elected not to tell them that Junipalooza would be heading to Melbourne later this year, perhaps that’s a conversation for a later day…).
While attendees were getting acquainted with new favourite gins, we took the opportunity to assess the category as a whole – to try to suss out any patterns and see what’s on the up in the gin world. One of the genres that really stuck out was fruit gin. It was everywhere; Blackwater Distillery brought their new Wexford Strawberry Gin (as well as a very limited edition Navy Strength edition, of which 12 bottles remain in the Gin Kiosk…), Poetic License served up their strawberries and cream flavoured Picnic Gin, Pinkster were of course present with their raspberry baby and Warner Edwards were on hand to show off their range.
Elephant, Hayman’s and Bathtub had their sloe gins on show and a couple of distillers dropped hints here and there about future fruity endeavours. We won’t give too much away, but those who like a fruit infusion should keep their eyes on Ballyvolane House in the near future…
Another style that was getting a lot of attention was cask aged gin; Long Table brought their Bourbon Barrel Aged Gin along, Bathtub had their Cask Aged, Makar brought along two sneaky samples – one rested in virgin oak and one in mulberry (the virgin oak was great, but the mulberry was sublime) and Blackwater and Herno had their respective Juniper Cask gins.
The venue was an absolute treat, allowing enough space so that it never felt crowded, but cosy enough surroundings so that a buzzy atmosphere remained. That’s no easy feat of magic given several thousand of gin fans were there. We owe huge thanks to the staff at Tobacco Dock for running around after us and being in constant contact to make sure we had all we needed – especially extra bins and spittoons for day two!
Each year Junipalooza gets better and better and while we’re particularly proud of this one, we know there’s still a lot to learn from it. We had plenty of water on the first day but we didn’t make it clear enough to visitors – by Sunday we had a dedicated, staffed water stand and glass rinsing station. We’ve also heard your feedback on the food as well and will make better provisions a priority for next year!
Thanks to all the makers who brought along their gins and thanks to all the gin fans who came down – it is a rare treat to have so many lovely people all in the same room and we can’t wait to see you all at Junipalooza 2017. If you missed it, this is what our good friends at Metro captured on Sunday.
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