REVIEW: Juniper Gin Festival - Part 2

Thanks to everyone who has read Part 1 of the festival review already, it's the most-viewed post on my fledgling blog so far.

A quick recap - the festival is run by Solid Liquids, and previously I outlined the gins that I got to taste within the Gallery section of the SWG3 venue.

After a quick bite to eat (the venison slider was ah-may-zing), it was time to continue on into the main TV Studio section.

This is the list of gins available:

First stop was at Makar which is a personal favourite already, and I make no apologies for having another sneaky wee taste! However I wanted to introduce it to my friends, and also to give them the chance to taste the Oak Aged, Mulberry and Old Tom variants.

I will be doing a full rundown on the Makar gins in a future post.

Crossbill Gin was a new name to me, and one I wanted to try.

In the current scenario where gins can feature a plethora of botanicals, it was surprising to discover that only two are included in Crossbill - juniper berries and rosehip. As you would expect, the taste is very juniper-forward but pleasant nonetheless and I would like to try this again as a full measure. This gin is now being distilled in Glasgow's East End.

Next door (figuratively speaking) was Sipsmith who had a variety of gins on offer:

The first taste I had was of the Sloe Gin - I had no idea what to expect, and (for no valid reason!) thought that I wouldn't like it - but I did, although it would definitely be as a long drink on a warm day. The taste that I was getting was of cherries and marzipan.

The London Cup is a punch rather which blends Earl Grey tea, lemon verbena and borage with a selection of vermouth and bitters, the Sispmith London Dry Gin. I'll be honest & say it wasn't to my personal taste - sorry!

The final gin I tried was the VJOP ("Very Juniper Over Proof" in case you were wondering!) At 57.7% ABV this juniper-forward gin uses triple the amount of Macedonian juniper berries to the standard London Dry Gin. Tasted neat, it was very sharp but was nice with some tonic added ... one to be sipped for sure!

By this time I knew that there would be no chance to try everything that was on offer in the time available ... hence my focus was then (mostly!) on gins that I hadn't tried before

Jindea was my first tea-based gin and again I really wasn't sure what to expect

Made from Darjeeling Tea known to tea-lovers as the ‘Champagne of Tea’, this is a citrus-forward gin with aromatic spices, peaches and apricots. The tea flavour is definitely there and I would probably try this again if I had the opportunity. It has been produced by Aberdeen-based 10 Dollar Shake.

The next gin definitely had me reaching for my wallet, and became my first purchase of the day ... Hoxton gin
It's made with juniper, iris, tarragon and ginger which are macerated for 5 days before single distillation in a 150 year old copper pot still. That is blended with premium grain spirit and then finished with natural coconut and pink grapefruit.

The gin is then filtered and rested in steel tanks for two months while all the natural botanicals harmonise - and let me tell you, it's bloody delicious!

The gin was also being made a Gina Colada cocktail by this lovely gentleman:

The end result (with the recipe from the Hoxton website) looks like this:

I'll definitely be looking to making some of these in the future, as well as enjoying it with some Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic. Its absolutely not a "traditional" gin & as a former Malibu drinker in my (much) younger days then perhaps that's why it appeals to me - but our friends also bought a bottle, and getting 2 branded highball glasses to go with it was a definite bonus.

The next stop was another new gin for me ... Wild Island gin which hails from the Isle of Colonsay (not to be confused with Colonsay Gin of course). Once again, this gin is one you'd want to try just by seeing the gorgeous bottle:

Produced in small batches and released in only 750 bottles at a time, this gin was very smooth & very drinkable! The perfect serve is with a slice of lemon, a sprig of mint and a twist of lemon peel.
The 'classic' botanicals are all there as you would expect (juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, cassia bark etc) but then enhanced by 6 Colonsay flora - lemon balm, wild water mint, meadowsweet, sea buckthorn, heather flowers and bog myrtle.

I think I can confidently predict that this will be a future purchase to add to my collection.

Time was definitely marching on, and decisions had to be made as there was no way to cover off all the remaining gins on offer.

I am definitely partial to citrus gins, so next stop was saying hello to Alfonso and his Valentia Gin

Valentia begins life in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Granada, Spain where the water is known for its exceptional purity and high quality. Double distilled in small batches from sugar cane in a traditional cooper pot still, adding botanicals and a final touch of Valencian citrus.

This gin is great served with lemon or blood orange as a garnish. I found it not too dis-similar to Tinker Gin which I already own, and which is equally lovely.

Next up was NOT (shock horror!) a gin - but instead trying some of the lovely Bon Accord mixers which were available

As their website proudly announces, "Bon Accord Is Back!"

Once a dominant brand on the Scottish soft drink scene, Bon Accord was a household name together with Krystal Klear who were more dominant here on the West Coast

Now, four generations on, the company has been revived and re-imagined for modern day consumers.

Bon Accord Soft Drinks are full in flavour, but contain no refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. They are flavoured with 100% natural ingredients.

I had a quick sample, of the Ginger Beer and Cloudy Lemonade, and both were lovely.

Anyway - back to the gin, haha!

Ginerosity is the world's first social enterprise gin whose profits are poured back into projects to help disadvantaged young adults here and abroad

Created by Pickering’s Gin at Summerhall Distillery in Edinburgh, Ginerosity is made using 10 ethically sourced botanicals: juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon, lime, orange, lemon myrtle, heather, cardamom and cloves.

I have to be honest & say that whilst pleasant enough, this wasn't distinctive enough for my taste although there is no doubting the good cause behind it.

In the interests of time which was rapidly running out, I decided to bypass Pickering’s Gin but if you've never tried it then you definitely should. I've been on the tour at Summerhall and it's a great way to spend an afternoon - we ended that trip by taking a bottle home plus 2 branded glasses.

Manchester Gin sets itself apart from the crowd through the use of two botanicals in particular; Dandelion and Burdock Root. The gin is made up of ten other botanicals including seasonal orange and lemon as well as the coriander and juniper.

The Raspberry variety has been infused with the raspberries to give a fruity gin which unsurprisingly I really liked

The well known brewery firm Brew Dog has now turned its hand to spirits, and Lone Wolf is their gin offering

This is a juniper-forward gin , distilled with lemongrass, Kaffir lime coriander, pink peppercorns and mace, lavender and Scots pine needles. It will be interesting to see if Brew Dog bring their huge selling power to bear & make this gin a success.

Rounding out the day (and a couple of minutes after cut-off time - shh!) was Porter's Gin from Aberdeen

The botanicals used are juniper, angelica, almond, coriander, liquorice, lemon, orange, buddha’s hand, pink peppercorn, orris root, cassia bark and cinnamon. The resulting gin is definitely juniper-forward but still retains a citrus profile.

Unfortunately I didn't get much chance to chat with the guys - next time!

I should also mention that I bought a bottle of Brockmans Gin ... one of my personal favourites & always good to get another branded copa glass! :-)

So that rounds out my review of the second Juniper Events Glasgow Gin Festival. I enjoyed it even more this year than I did last year, given that I've had 12 more months to further develop my interest in gin.

The strapline for this festival is #BestGinFest and based on my personal experience I have to agree, I love getting the chance to meet the makers, and taste lots of different which (unlike other festivals) are all included in the ticket price.

Yes, the ticket price was increased from last year and no, you don't get a branded glass to take home, but I thought it was excellent value for money and the expanded range of gins on offer was great.

Many thanks to the folks at Solid Liquids for allowing me to use some of their images which were taken by Till Britze Photography.

(*) note - I paid for my own ticket to attend this event