FAIR Juniper Gin
FAIR is a portfolio of ethically made spirits, each emblazoned with a Fairtrade stamp and a strong sense of social responsibility. The company was founded in 2009 by Alexandre Koiransky, a Frenchman who’d spent four years in Chicago as a Cognac sales representative. While he found the spirits industry interesting, his heart lay in the ethics that surrounded it; he wanted to work with farmers fairly, to create a chain of production that treated everyone with respect.
It took around two years to go from inception to end product, as every detail needed to be right, from the Fairtrade cooperatives to the choice of still – a 200-litre alembic copper number made by Jean-Louis Stupfler.
All of the FAIR products are made in France, in the company’s micro-distillery in Cognac, but all of the ingredients are sourced from afar; the vodka is made from quinoa seeds grown by over 1200 independent producers in the Altiplano region of South America. FAIR pays 15% above the market price for the seeds, and also gives back 2.5% of its turnover to the farmers.
To make the all-important move from vodka to gin, they use the vodka spirit and macerate botanicals for one week. Juniper, cardamom, coriander, grains of paradise, calamus root and angelica root are all used in the process. The juniper comes from a nature reserve in Uzbekistan, and spices come from the Kerala region of South West India and in both cases, the team behind the Gin are quick to point out their direct relationship with the farmers. The production of the spirit is overseen by Master Distiller Philippe Laclie, who had no specific goal in mind when creating Fair Gin, instead evolving the drink to its eventual, juniper-forward palate through experimentation.
The still – at just 200 litres – only has the capacity to produce a small amount of liquid each batch, so several runs of the spirit are combined before bottling. The spirit comes off the still at 65% ABV and is blended down to bottling strength with demineralised water from the Cognac region.
FAIR Gin to taste…
As soon as the bottle is open, an unmistakable juniper leaps forward, bringing with it a herbal quality that dominates the gin’s aroma. The musty notes from grains of paradise and cardamom try to fight their way forward, but are very much kept on a leash by a prominent juniper.
Juniper comes through to taste, with cardamom and grains of paradise underpinning the gin and adding a spiced floor to the gin. The roots (both angelica and calamus) bring a rich, oily mouthfeel and a slightly earthy finish too. The botanicals are all delivered in a calm manner, with coriander seed bringing a citrus tinge to proceedings but never seeking to shout above the pack.
This is a warming gin and relatively classic in many ways. At 42% its unexpectedly easy to sip neat, but at its best in a G&T. If you like juniper forward or even spice-leaning gins, Fair Gin wouldn’t be our first suggestion as it’s somewhere between the two rather than clearly one or the other, but it’s undeniably well made and versatile in cocktails.
Matching it up with Mediterranean Fever Tree and a sprig of rosemary would highlight the herbal elements of the juniper and a slice of pink grapefruit would add heft to the more citrusy elements. Lastly, for those not keen on tonic (with such a love of it here, it’s hard to think that’s even possible!) Fair Gin’s got quite a strong ginger-like element to it due to the calamus root and as a result, works well in a Gin Buck (Gin & Ginger Ale).
FAIR Gin is an undoubtedly premium product, presented in a clear cut glass bottle with minimalistic design work and something of a human touch. It’s been noted that the bottle shape is evocative of aftershave, but the handwritten font steers the product away from being entirely masculine. It’s hugely appealing, the only disappointment being the fact that the bottle is only 50cl…
As for their plans, FAIR wishes to be sold in as many places as possible – bars, hotels… They also hope to engage with others who share their philosophies – to work with people who hold the same beliefs in the importance of Fairtrade. Their branding message is strong and clear and opens them up to a whole new market – not just spirit connoisseurs, but those who are driven by a desire to belong to a fair world. With more and more industries placing a heavier emphasis on social corporate responsibility – they stand to gain both word of mouth and advocacy by being one of the early adopters in the gin trade.
Staying true to their juniper adventures, the FAIR team have also created a Barrel Aged version of the gin. We had a chance to taste it and it’s genuinely excellent (in fact, we think we might prefer it to the regular edition). Soft wood drives the nose, bringing with it a faint whisky smell. The juniper seems bigger here, a sense that translates to the tongue. The barrel has mellowed the gin and added viscosity, bringing a sappy, honeyed mouthfeel. The juniper and spice are both elevated, with the latter coming through particularly hard on the finish. This is great neat on the rocks, but much like it’s counterpart would also do very well in a Gin Buck.
We’re excited to see how FAIR Gin performs in the next couple of years – it can be hard for many brands to separate genuine niche from marketing gimmick but with their virtuous stance, we believe they’ve done so. Only time will tell if consumers will adopt them widely, but with a competitive price (less than £30 in the UK market), it’s not like they are charging through the nose just because of their social credentials.
For more information about FAIR Gin, visit their website: www.FAIRSpirits.com
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