REVIEW: Juniper Gin Festival - Part 1

This past weekend saw the second Juniper Gin Festival held within the SWG3 event space in Glasgow's West End. I attended the inaugural event last year (although they have been running in Edinburgh since 2014) and had a fantastic time - it was my first Gin festival, and I had eagerly snapped up tickets for myself & some friends as soon as this year's event went on sale.

The weather was pretty miserable as we headed into Glasgow on the train, but as long as the gin was going to be wet then I didn't care too much! ;-)

We used Uber for the first time (having come across it in Nashville last year) and it was fantastic ... a Mercedes Vito van turned up 90 seconds after I booked it on the app, and the fare from George Square was less than £5 for the 4 of us ... simples!

The street food stall outside had some tempting aromas but having decided that my stomach was already fully lined for some gin (it was midday <just!> by now) we ventured inside to be warmly greeted, and quickly issued with our gin guide and pin badge ... no badge, no gin!

The event is run by Solid Liquids, and it was immediately obvious that last year's event had been expanded upon with an even greater selections of gin on offer.

This is what was available for tasting inside the initial smaller "Gallery" area:

I wanted to start with something completely new to me, so Death's Door seemed like an obvious choice. It was a very smooth gin, not harsh at all, and it was interesting to hear that it's made from a base that includes wheat, corn and malted barley. It comes from Washington Island, Wisconsin and it was immediately on my Favourites list!

Next up was Aviation Gin which is already in my collection, but that didn't stop me from having a taste, I was however somewhat bemused to be offered something that was a total first for me ... Gin & Irn Bru! Yes, really!

I'm not sure it's something I would really recommend - you could actually taste the gin but it was very subtle and at just under £35 a bottle I will definitely be sticking with a decent tonic!

The final gin at the same table (which you can see hiding behind the Aviation bottle in the above picture) was Fifty Pounds gin, a London Dry. The label describes it as "Rare and Handcrafted" which it may well be, but I genuinely didn't find anything too distinctive about it which made it stand out from the many others on the market.

Silent Pool gin was my next taste, and if they say that you can eat with your eyes then you can definitely drink with your eyes too, as this bottle (and the matching glasses) is one of the most stunning on the market.

This has 24 botanicals (yes, 24) and manages to deliver a really great taste which I am definitely a fan of ... so this bottle & glass set is high on my Wish List!

I rounded off my American gins with Brooklyn Gin which is a personal favourite which I've tried a couple of times in different bars, although I don't yet own a bottle.

I definitely want to, though - and I can't believe how heavy the bottle itself is. I can imagine that it would look great when up-cycled with some LED lights which seem to be the fashion these days (well, that and lampshades! Lol)

I wasn't a great fan of gin the last time I visited New York, instead making a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery which was great. There's no gin distillery tour available (they use just one Christian Carl copper pot still, with each batch yielding 300 bottles of gin and the process taking 3 days) ... but nonetheless it would be cool to sit in a trendy Brooklyn bar (of which there are many!) sipping a homegrown gin cocktail - and what better than a Brooklyn 75:

I suspect that Ki No Bi gin was new to all but the most ardent gin fan, and I was curious to try it. It is Japan's first artisanal gin and is distilled, blended and bottled in Kyoto.

The gin is been made using a rice spirit base, plus a selection of botanicals such as yuzu, hinoki wood chips, bamboo leaves, green sansho and gyokuro tea. It's a very unique taste, and although I enjoyed it, I would find it hard to justify spending £45 on a bottle as it's not something I would see as a 'go to' gin of choice.

It was now 12:30 and with 6 tastings ticked off (with much more to go), I attended the Master Class being run by Jamie from Solid Liquids entitled "How to be a better gin taster". We were lucky to get the last seats in the small theatre area and what followed was a really enjoyable exploration of how all the various senses can influence how you think about gin. We also got to try Solid's own gin Bear Necessities which is juniper-forward and also features lemon rind, rosemary and thyme.

Once that was over, back to the gins! Next stop was the unique Ungava gin that I've seen on the supermarket shelves but never actually had the chance to taste (and this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this festival). You can't help but notice the electric yellow colour of this gin:

This Canadian gin features Nordic juniper berries which I had the opportunity to smell, and that definitely carries through into the taste. Other botanicals include wild rose hips, crowberry and Labrador tea, Try it with a premium light tonic (which will dilute the colour somewhat) and a wedge of grapefruit to garnish.

Stirling distillers Boe had the next gins to try, and again I've tasted their Superior Gin a number of times and I really do like it:

You can see the botanicals listed on the bottle so need for me to list them! :-) However, this was over-shadowed by its relative sitting glowing on the table next to it ... Boe Violet Gin:

This gin is neon purple in colour, but don't let either that or the name put you off ... this is definitely something to enjoy, especially if we ever manage to get a decent Summer evening again here in Scotland. This was definitely a hit with my friends & I.

Unfortunately, we weren't so keen on the Peach & Hibiscus Liqueur - but you can't like everything I guess! ;-(

I was lucky enough a couple of months ago to win a competition on Twitter where the prize was a bottle of Scapegrace gin, and this New Zealand gin is one that I find myself going back to quite often (either that or the contents of the bottle are evaporating! Lol). Its name is a traditional word for rogue or rascal and incorporates gin’s “murky history” with a black-tinted bottle – a shape based on an antique genever bottle. It only became available in the UK through Hi-Spirits in late 2016,

The gin has won a number of worldwide awards and it's easy to see why. The pure New Zealand water is joined 13 botanicals from around the world, including destinations as diverse as Grenada (nutmeg seeds), Guatemala (cardamom pods) and Morocco (dried tangerine citrus). Personally, I like to drink this one with Fever Tree Light tonic and a slice of orange.

The final brand selection I wanted to try was Whitley Neill - "Inspired by Africa, crafted in England" is their tag line. Again, the black bottle is a common sight on supermarket shelves but has yet to make its way onto the Lafferty shelf!

The 'standard' gin is infused with 9 botanicals - Lemon, orange, juniper berries, angelica root, coriander seeds, cape gooseberry, baobab fruit, cassia bark, and Florentine iris - those last few you definitely won't find in your local Tesco! :-)

It's a London Dry Gin, made in a 100-year old copper still, but unlike Fifty Pounds I found that there was definitely something notable about this gin & I'd definitely like to try it again in a full measure.

Like so many other distillers, they also offer a range of flavoured gins including Nettle, Elderflower, Rhubarb & Ginger and Quince.

I tried the latter 2 and have to say that they were both delicious - in fact, I got into trouble for not buying a bottle of Quince gin on the day - and in hindsight, I probably should have! :-/

One gin that I missed out on trying through my error & nothing more was Broker's Gin

However, it is currently featured in JD Wetherspoons 'Gin Palace' so I will seek it out there.

That concludes Part One of my Festival review, with most of the gins available in the Gallery area. Look out for Part Two in the next couple of days, featuring an even larger number of gins!