Passion and Business – Junipalooza and Imbibe

Being a gin writer based outside of London isn’t always easy. Don’t get me wrong, there are great gin scenes happening all over the country. But, London is still a base and hot bed for shows, launches and other events.

And the last month has been particularly generous, what with two of the largest events on the calendar, Junipalooza and Imbibe. This year I was lucky enough to get to both. Here’s my round up.

Junipalooza

Junipalooza was an exciting event for me. I’ve been writing on gin for about four years. But, due to previous work commitments, this was the first one I’ve made it to and it was a real box ticked! Junipalooza is legendary in the gin world, it is some would say ‘the’ gin event of the year. Held at Tobacco Docks, a fabulous venue in London, it spans countless rooms with ninety odd stalls. Some were simple whereas others went all out, creating whole rooms like the Franklin and Sons experience room. The event was huge and I learnt the valuable trick that some people go to more than one session, a popular choice being the one Saturday session, then a Sunday session to break it up. I arrived slightly late and did an initial run round to get my bearings. Even doing this, and having a clearly marked map, and the event being incredibly well sign posted, I still managed to miss a whole room on the left hand side! I’m sorry guys!

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What I did make it to was great. As soon as I walked in I saw Xav’s happy face behind the IOW Mermaid gin stall. He had a new offering for me to try, getting on the pink train with the release of a strawberry Mermaid gin. Xav is a stickler for local produce so naturally the strawberries are sourced from the island. It’s a gorgeous spirit. The muddled sweetness of the fruit mingling ever so nicely with the elderflower and sicilian lemons of the gin. Their new bottle caused quite a stir yesterday and the new pink colouring for that edition is sure to be a definite hit. I also met a couple of lovely chaps from Belgium who are looking to launch their gin, the Drunken Horse, into the UK soon. It’s a good solid gin and I’ve got a little bottle to go into more details when it comes out so lets hold that thought for now.

Next up I sought out Jaisalamer. I have recently been sent a bottle which is in my reviewing queue. I was keen to see what it was about after trying Hapusa at Gin Live. It seems the terroir of Himalayan spirits add an element of mystical earth and spice and make for a beautiful and different style, built around fragrant notes and generous warm spices. The gentlemen on the stall were all lovely and serving a G&T with orange was a great serve indeed.

Taking a minute to contemplate the map, I was approached by Olivier and handed a mysterious plant. He has asked me to love it, nurture it and keep it alive for a project that Gin Foundry and Warner are working on, which should happen about August. I’d like to add that the plant, now identified as apple mint, is looking very happy on my windowsill, which is quite surprising considering my kittens love a nibble on a juicy plant.

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Boatyard Gin was certainly worth a visit. Having tried some of their vodka at a competition, I was surprised at the character, power and smoothness. It stood out to me so much, that a year down the line, I was immediately drawn to their stall. The chap there was lovely and keen to show me the gin wares. Their double juniper gin was incredible! So much flavour, really generous and a lovely mouthfeel. If you’ve not tried it yet then I suggest that you get on the case. I’m a big fan of their work. Speaking of overtly juniper gins, Never Never was another stall I discovered and their Juniper Freak gin has been making waves in the gin community and fellow bloggers have spoken very highly of it.

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One of the great things about the event was getting to meet people face to face that had only previously been voiced in email and social media. Bruce from Brentingby was a highlight for me and his grapefruit pomelo gin slushie was absolutely superb. The natural zing of the grapefruit was so refreshing on such a hot and busy day. Hats off to that Bruce, you’ve inspired me to try and source a slushie machine for home.

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I promised myself I’d sit in on a masterclass, just the one. It felt important to appreciate the offerings of the event, though I’ve held a few myself and the time felt too valuable to sit and learn stuff that I already knew. The Warner one seemed incredibly relevant for me. Tom Warner came to do a gin talk at the gin bar I worked in a few years ago, where I fell in love with it. I missed that class. And, even now, I feel like I missed out on something there, so I was keen to see him in person doing his thing. What a force of showmanship he is. After working on the Tinker stall for so long I do feel akin to people doing the job. It’s intense, repeating the same info, being asked the same follow up questions, and being able to do it with consistent energy and enthusiasm, treating the last set of customers with the same approach as the first. It really is a marathon and he didn’t let me down. He was informative, personable and funny. The room itself was gorgeous, with an incredible wall of flowers which they had built for a stand at the Chelsea flower show. Nature in a fundamental element of the botanicals and the process at Warner. They forage what they can in botanicals down at the farm, if they don’t find enough they’ll make less bottles, simple. That love and care really came out in the masterclass as well. Great stuff guys!

It was at this point I realised time was running out and discovered the missing room! I just had time to get in and see my chums at Bullards. Their London Dry is a favourite of mine, using Tonka beans which give it a wonderfully earthy, old cocoa/vanilla vibe, which is a contemporary twist but still very in keeping with what we want from a traditional London Dry, really well thought out flavour, that. And I managed to catch a brief chat with Martin from Pothecary, who is very much one of those online voices I engage with often, it was a pleasure to meet him in person.

There were so many stalls I missed! I’ve certainly learned my lesson. I’m making a full weekend of it next year. The vibe was just wonderful. Everyone was there for the gin. The crowds were friendly and it felt like a party, a party where we celebrated our mutual love of our favourite spirit. Next year I’m hitting a couple of sessions and I’m doing it properly.
Imbibe

In recent weeks I’ve lost a small sense of the urgency in my writing. I tend to find that whether it be a review or an event, I tend to sit and stew on the experience, giving time for the ideas to develop, much like leaving botanicals to macerate in a still. This tends to produce better writing. However, it does have draw backs, the most difficult to negotiate being the drive to complete the piece. I am trying to become more disciplined with this.

Saying that, I’m currently on a train heading home from London, where I came to Imbibe yesterday, and I am just compelled to write. This compulsion is one of the main reasons I write, the sentences flying out onto the screen quicker than I can comprehend them and my finger tips dance on words that fall away like the bricks of a path in a fantasy land.

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I went to Imbibe two years ago when I was working for Tinker and GinFestival.com. Dan and me drove down off the back of three days working at an event in Leeds. I was repping for PJ Gin at that event and it was one of largest in the season. Being on a stall promoting four gins to so many excitable people was hard and by the drive down I was losing my voice. Even so, when I walked into the Olympia for the first time, seeing that enormous space, chok full with every alcohol you could imagine, set ups of all sizes, I felt like I was in heaven. I remember saying that if the real world was that space, and walking around it was the every day, I’d be so happy. I promised myself I would go back one year as a punter, the other side of the bar and this year I got to fulfil that wish and it was glorious.

With so many stalls offering so many things, there’s really just not time to get around everyone and give them all the time that they deserve, but I tried my best. I found some great little gins there. The Old Curiosity Distillery with a Geranium and Mallow gin was a firm favourite of mine. The gentleman on the stall, another Bernie, was warm and spoke about the gins with great love. There are currently six in the range, all inspired by old recipes for medicines and tinctures, flavours like ‘lavender and echinacea’ and ‘chamomile and cornflower’ with all botanicals excluding the juniper, being grown on their‘almost organic’ farm. I do hope they send me a little something to review as the Geranium and Mallow was exquisite.

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It was great to see Greater Than Gin there too as it meant they also had a little set up for Hapusa. Mystic and fragrant, it’s a fantastic gin and one to get your hands on. The natural terroir of the Himalayas is just fab, as mentioned previously. Hapusa certainly leans more to the rich an fragrant aromatics, rather than Jaisalmers warm spice. The rep on the stall was fantastic. She was really passionate about the spirit and was a great example of how a rep can be just as enthusiastic as those that work in the distillery.

Masons had a lovely set up this year and it was such a pleasure to catch up with Luke Smith, formally of Poetic License, who had moved over to Masons last year. It was also an honour to meet ‘Mr Mason’ himself and finally try some of the Pink Peppered Pear, which has been on my radar for ages. Things seem to be going really well for them since the fire which is wonderful. They’re great company and they make fabulous gin. Their Yorkshire Tea Edition has always been a favourite of mine. It’s my go to tea at home and they do such a good job with the balance of it. If you’ve not tried it yet, put it on your list.

I hit up the Maverick Stall to say hello as I do a bit of writing for them. It was great to see they had the Boutique-y RTD range out which includes some right crackers, my favourite of which being the Spit Roasted Pineapple Mule, made with their pineapple gin, ginger ale and lime. It’s a gorgeous drink.

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Fancying something a little different I got chatting to a chap called Federico Pasian, Head of Mixology at Quaglino’s Mayfair. He made me an incredible cocktail called the Globetrotter. Made with Sauvelle vodka, Nocino de Modena, Oloroso, Banana, Peanut butter and Grapefruit. The flavour was absolutely amazing! Such unusual notes but mingling together in a beautiful smooth punchy sweetness. It was gorgeous.

I was super pleased to see Bruce at Breningtby again. After reviewing the Black Edition a few months ago, then meeting him at Junipalooza, it’s great to see him going for strength to strength with his gin. He’s recently launched an RTD of the Roobois and Baobab and it’s up there with my favourites on the market right now. Having missed out on the new barrel aged gin at Junipalooza, it was great to see it in the flesh and give it a go. I love an aged gin, but I find the balance needs to be just right, with enough juniper punching through. Brentingby is a boldly classic gin and holds it weight really well in the barrel ageing process. Sterling work Bruce!

As I final treat I got to say a quick hello to Steve Gould from Golden Moon Distillery, an American Distillery that I first discovered through a Boutique-y Gin collaboration. There were a great few products on the stall and it’s always a pleasure seeing Steve, as I catch him at a lot of gin competitions.

Before long I was feeling a little woozy, announcements were announcing the event was closed and staff were patiently ushering wobbly people towards the door. I’m sure local bars do a great trade today, the punters continuing the fun and discussion whilst the exhibitors are left to pack down their stalls, with the Olympia staff dismantling the set up around them. It’s really quite impressive how quickly it all disappears, until next year.

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It’s an interesting vibe at Imbibe. The event is aimed at trade and industry types and naturally this does mean a lot of the conversation comes down to business, rather than the love of distilling. This has the unfortunate setback in cultivating certain attitudes where words cost money. Let’s be honest, anyone selling the gin wants to make money. However, there were various instances where I was greeted with an attitude of ‘what can you do for me, is it worth me talking to you’. I was the lone blogger ignored at one stall and on another asked my credentials as if I had to prove my worth for being there. There were points where the speils ran dry quite quickly when they realised I wasn’t about to put a case a week on repeat order. Whilst I totally understand that it’s an industry event, and it takes a lot of stamina handling so many people, having been that side of the bar, I do feel it’s worth a gentle reminder that if you’re going deal with the hospitality trade, you should be hospitable. Still, I was already expecting some of this before I went and I don’t think it’s the fault of the event at all, it’s just the nature of business.

So, Junipalooza is mostly for the gin drinker and Imbibe is for trade. They’re two completely different experiences but are great none the less. There’s lots to be learnt and tried at each one. If I had I had to pick one of the two then Junipalooza would definitely be my preference. But, luckily for me, I don’t have too, so I’ll be going back to both next year. Just as a final note, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the organisers of both events. They’re just so big, it must take a lot of time to do it and we in the drinking world salute you.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – TBGC’s gin advent calendar, plus win a bottle of Yuletide gin.

After keeping schtum for the last few weeks, I can talk now without getting too much stick, I hope.

I love Christmas. I’m one of those disgusting Christmas people. I want to put the decorations up asap and spend at least a month inside in front of the tree making Christmas crafts surrounded by all the festive goodies. The cheesy feel good films, the jolly, jingle bell sodden music. I love it all. The way I see it, if you can put the pressures to buy big aside, it really boils down to the opportunity to spend time with those you love the most. And, as life gets increasingly busy, I like to take all the opportunity I can for that.

Bearing this in mind, I’ve got a treat for you. I’ve teamed up with That Boutique-y Gin Company to offer you a festive treat, the opportunity to win a bottle of their Yuletide gin for yourself to share with friends around the fire, or perhaps in front of Die Hard. It is a Christmas film. To me, anyway.

Yuletide gin is just fabulous. It has just about every Christmassy flavour you can possibly imagine, crammed in to one bottle. I’d tell you all of those botanicals, but from the mejool dates to the entire gingerbread house, the list is quite overwhelming. Plus, I’d be repeating myself. I wrote a little bit on their gin last year and with one click you can read the list here. You can buy a 50cl bottle online, but at the end of this post I’ll tell you how you can enter a competition to win one for yourself.

Yuletide Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

TBGC have been very kind to me this year. Not only have they given me a bottle of gin to give away to you fine lot, but they’ve also given me a Boutique-y advent calendar, filled with 24 of their delicious creations. It makes the festive season all the better. Last year I got the pleasure of opening doors to their calendar, in exchange for showing off some of the serves. This year I only had to create one serve which they will post on the day of the gin in the calendar. I already knew what I wanted to do. When the day of my serve comes, I hope that you like it.

Gin advent calendars are really rather popular and I can see why. Last year my December was transformed for having a surprise gin to come home to every day. If you’re interested in getting hold of one of their calendars for yourself or someone you know then you can do that through various sites: Master of Malt, Amazon, 31 Dover and IWOOT. I’ll leave it up to you to decide your preference there.

So, if you’d like to win the gin, just keep an eye out on my Twitter (@TheGinfluence). In the next 24 hours, you’re going to see a simple retweet to win. The competition will run for 3 days and I’ll pick one lucky winner out of my santa hat, to be announced on Friday.

So, keep your eyes peeled and good luck!

 

 

 

TBGC 10 Gin Example Extraordinaire – Part 2

Last week in TBGC 10 Gin Example Extraordinaire – Part 1, I gave you a brief overview of 5 of TBGC’s recent offerings, half of the 10 they sent me. Well, I am trying to learn to space my drinks out a little more.

And here we are this week with the other 5, including my favourite of the newbies, the Rhubarb Triangle (have you tried it yet? If not, where have you been?!) I guess it should go without saying that Rhubarb was a top player last year and was incredibly popular, especially over the summer. The plant may need sunshine, but the flavour certainly doesn’t and I’ve had great fun experimenting with hot gins using it.

So, without further delay, lets move onto the next 5. Take a seat, make sure you’ve got a good full drink in front of you and let’s get this party started.

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Double-Sloe Gin, Whittaker’s, 44%: This is a delightful offering from Whittakers, based in Harrogate. A mix of sloe gins, sweetened with lovely liqourice. On the nose this gin is sweet with a hint of cherry and underbelly of mossy glade, the sort of smell that evokes a wander through a freshly rained on orchard. The palate is hit with a deeply sweet spice that warms and lingers at the end. This is a surprising and lovely gin, and very versatile. definitely one to be used in cooking and hot gins as well as a cooler, longer drink.

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Hot Sauce Gin, FEW, 46.2%: Well, this is rather special! Anyone I know who loves their spice needs to hop on board this asap! Made as a limited addition with American heavyweight FEW, bourbon is held in barrels that have held bourbon and then hot sauce. The bourbon is then re-distilled with juniper, Guajillo  peppers and Ancho chillies. This a truly inventive and magical gin. The boom of heat on the palate is delicious and has me immediately thinking about trying it in marinades, or having it to sip on whilst eating spicy food. This is a real piece of work, this one.

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Finger Lime Gin, 46%: Ever heard of finger limes? Me neither. From checking the description I became curious and did some research. They are such a brilliantly interesting fruit. Partly citrus and partly not, break open the skin to release a plethora of small juicy balls, commonly compared to caviar. Needless to say, the gin is delightful. Fresh with a zingy tartness on the nose moving through to a sweeter palate and a short, floral vanilla finish. This is a fab gin, would be good in citrus cocktails or long, summer coolers.

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Rhubarb Triangle Gin, 46%: Made using rhubarb from the Rhubarb Triangle located between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, this is an incredible gin. Achieving a huge fruity flavour in gin generally comes at the sacrifice of the ABV and the gin becomes a liqueur. Not that there’s anything wrong with liqueurs, I just personally prefer gins. Rhubarb has been a popular botanical over the summer months, both in liqueur and gin form that has a more subtle fruit. This gin has it all. It’s an overwhelmingly juicy, spicy hit of rhubarb. Amazing for cooking and cocktails, I’d say. Absolutely bursting with flavours, I’m a little in love with this one.

Strawberry and Balsamic Gin, 40.1%: Not one for the faint hearted, this is a peculiar gin. Even more peculiar that there is little online about it as yet (and no picture either, sorry!) But its amazing and definitely deserves a mention. Now I’m aware of strawberries with balsamic glaze, and despite being one of those flavours some people don’t like, I think the flavours compliment each other well. I was unsure what to expect with it in gin form. Balance is key in this recipe and TBGC have done very well. Classified as a fruit gin, the strawberry flavour is rich, decadent and seductive. The balsamic comes through just at the right level and rumbles on into the finish, not to override the thick juicy strawberry, but to bring another element that almost likens it to a wine or port in flavour.

But where oh where do we get our delicious gins! I hear you cry! The usual suspects Master of MaltAmazonThat Boutique-y Gin Company, plus various other shops and retailers. Not so sure on the Strawberry and Balsamic yet, but I’ll find out and let you know.

So, there we have it. 5 gins into my day and it’s only 4pm. What a fabulously productive start. Thank you so much for taking the time to send the gins to me Boutique-y. I’m super impressed and as always, I’m keen to try out any more you want to throw my way.

 

TBGC 10 Gin Example Extraordinaire – Part 1

That Boutique-y Gin Company are doing rather well for themselves.

I’ve got 4 bottles of various gins here and I’m trying to write a focused article on each one. (Lot’s to look forward to at Ginfluence HQ). The same day I start this little project, I get a parcel from TBGC with 10 samples of recent additions to their family of fantastic tinctures. I feel delightfully spoilt. I’ll cover 5 today, 5 next week, only to draw out the pleasure, dear reader.

They’ve got so much to offer! Working with existing distilleries and gins to create inventive spin offs and also their own one off gins.

So lets get started. It’s the quick fire round!

neroli-gin-that-boutiquey-gin-company-ginNeroli Gin, 46% : A rather special gin for the lovers of floral flavours, it uses Neroli oil which is extracted from the blossom of bitter orange trees. That bitterness is evened out beautifully by the addition of spicy juniper. Apparently it takes a tonne of flowers to make 1 kg of oil, and with the first batch at only 718 bottles, this is a pretty precious gin. With an opening heavy with floral, sweet spicy citrus palate and lingering finish. It’s going to be fantastic for cocktails and summer coolers.

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Pan-Pacific Gin, Farallon Gin, 46%: An American Dry Gin, the idea being to contain botanicals from each side of the pacific. The signature botanicals in the instance are yuzu and schisandra berries. There’s a sweetness to this gin, vanilla kind of flavour that gives it the feel of an old tom. This is twisted nicely with spice and the warmth of juniper. This one is relatively simple in flavours on the palette, and worth owning because of the idea itself. For fans of TBGC 7 Continents Gin.

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Cucamelon Gin, 46%: Well, here was me thinking that this gin would be a blend of cucumber and melon botanicals but as it stands, the cucamelon is its own thing, a fruit that looks like a small watermelon but tastes like cucumber with a slightly limey element. Soft and sweet in flavour, with a well balanced kick of juniper on the nose, lime pudding richness. The lime flavour does have a surprising kick. I’ll be sure to experiment with this in long, gin coolers when the summer returns.

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CitroLondon Dry Gin, Fifty Eight Gin, 45%: A London Dry Gin, this has a fantastic story! So, the Fifty Eight Distillery has worked with author of 101 Gin To Try Before You Die, Ian Buxton, to create this lovely little nod to London’s distilling history. There is an unusual and ancient little citrus that’s been growing in London for eons, so what a fantastic idea to use that citrus to create a London Dry. Fantastic idea and fantastic gin. Massive citrus flavours that become more spicy as the flavour develops. Citrus gins are growing in popularity with fresh flavours. This one is a cracker.

chocolate-cherry-gin-mcqueen-that-boutiquey-gin-company-ginChocolate Cherry Gin, Mqueen, 42%: A marvellous creation, with sour cherry and cocoa. There is a delightful desert element, with notes of forest gateaux and kirsch soaked cherry. Although it seems like a particular flavour, and maybe not so adaptable, there’s a lot you can do with this gin. It’s not only good for sipping, it would also work wonderfully with cooking and my favourite is slipping it into a hot chocolate for an ultimate toe curling comforter and deeply sweet nights sleep. Perfect to see us through the next few cold months. I’ll take 2 please.

I normally put links to the relevant sites, but we know who they are, don’t we? Master of MaltAmazon, as well as local suppliers. But full details can be found at the ‘where to buy’ section on TBGC’s website.

I’m feeling pretty good after getting stuck into these 5 special gins. Do tune in next week where I’ll be covering the others: Double Sloe Gin, Whittakers, Hot Sauce Gin, Finger Lime Gin, Strawberry and Balsamic Gin and the absolutely stunning Rhubarb Triangle gin, which seems to tickle every available rhubarb sensor in the mouth. Well done TBGC! Keep up the good work, and do please keep sending them my way!

 

 

Let the festivities begin! – That Boutique-y’s Yuletide Gin!

It’s Christmas!

Well, almost. But that’s close enough, right? With all this dashing around, find the perfect gifts for everyone, it’s important to take a minute to yourself to well, have a little indulgence too.

At That Boutique-y Gin Company, they claim to have ‘distilled Christmas’, in their new Yuletide gin. And, with the incredible list of botanicals, I’m inclined to agree with them. Are you sitting comfortably?

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Juniper, cassia, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, medjool dates, cloves, allspice, clementine, cardamom, ginger, whole pomanders (oranges studded with cloves), Basam and Douglas Fir Christmas tree needles, Christmas cake, charred oak, chestnuts, Christmas puddings, lebkuchen, mince pies, panettone, a whole gingerbread house and finally, to give it that final finish of Christmas, frankincense, myrrh and 24ct gold flakes which give it a beautiful snowglobe effect. Believe me when I say that I have shaken the bottle several times since getting my hands on it.

An absolutely amazing list, but how does it taste? As good as you’d hope, seeing as its packed with more goodies that a Christmas stocking. The nose is beautiful, smelling sweetly of juicy Christmas pudding warm spice and with a hint of the pine needles on the finish, giving a foreshadowing of the excellent balance between so much rich flavour and the juniper. As we move into the palette we have the exquisite balance of clementine, pudding and confectionery, all those sweet and spicy flavours we associate with picking at by an open fire. The finish leaves us with the appropriate lingering of glace cherry, the cherry on top of what is a wonderful, wonderful gin.

There’s a lot you can do with this. As a basic G&T it works fantastic with Aromatic tonic and orange twist, a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds to give it some extra panache.

There are alternative recipes on That Boutique-y Gin’s website here, including a White Christmas Negroni and a Fireside Punch. I’ll also be taking the festive period to experiment with some hot gin recipes.

Another successful offering from Boutique-y. Well done!

Yuletide gin is available from most online retailers such as Amazon, and Master of Malt.

Merry Christmas! Cheers!