Interview with the creators of Gin Foundry and Junipalooza
A week prior to the first time ever Junipalooza in Hamburg (21.–22.9.2018 · Get your tickets) I got the chance to conduct an email interview with the two brothers Emile and Olivier Ward, creators of the Junipalooza event and the founders of ginfoundry.com.
Junipalooza "the" gin festival
Junipalooza, for those of you who do not know the event yet, is a gin maker festival. You get to know and meet the creators of many different gins from Germany, the UK, Australia and other countries. The festival will take place in Hamburg Altona's Fischauktionshalle (fish auction hall) right at the Elbe river bank. A breathtaking old building with amazing views, sunsets, and for those reasons home to many events, festivals, and concerts. In case you are coming read the tips and information on the Junipalooza live coverage page. But let's get started with the questions and answers, shall we?
Jan Persiel: It is impressive for someone running a small blog to see what you have created as a small team: An impressive website, amazing article quality and some great products, not to mention the events like the Junipalooza. What is motivating you personally and as a team to keep up such high quality?
Emile Ward: We created Gin Foundry in 2014 with the sole purpose to educate the public about the amazing facets behind the world of Gin, who makes them and why. We wanted to be a platform to support the gin industry both in the UK and around the world and not be competitors. At the same time, we also had the idea to create an advent calendar filled with Gin which we called Ginvent and we were also asked to create an event for all producers which turned into Junipalooza. A business was born and now five years later, we also run Gin Kiosk, an e-commerce shop specialised in gin and tonic, we write the Gin Annual each year, we've published a book and run Junipalooza in Melbourne, Australia as well as in Hamburg, Germany! It’s a lot, but the driver remains the same as it always has - we love gin, we love discovering more about distillers and that passion allows to produce all of this work and keeps us focused on ensuring it remains at a high calibre.
Jan Persiel: As someone who had the feeling that there must be more to gin than just that blue or green bottle some 5 years ago, I wonder how you got to where you are today in terms of knowledge and understanding of gin and the spirits business?
Emile Ward: We were lucky in the sense that we were working in the spirits business for three to four years before we started Gin Foundry. At the time, we we were working with whisky but also had worked on Hendrick's Gin so we saw the rise of gin before everyone else. It was obvious when Sipsmith came into the market that things were about to change for example. We also had a front row seat since we had the opportunity to talk and see all the new distilleries before they became known. We've never stopped to learn and constantly visit new distilleries and new operations both in Gin and other spirits to widen our understanding of spirits. The best thing we’ve learned as the more you know, the more our realise that there is so much to discover that you haven’t thought about yet. Curiosity has kept us on a curve that’s expanded our knowledge.
Jan Persiel: Being a source to turn to in order to find valuable information about gin, how do you manage to stay journalistically independent? There are so many blogs, feeds, and publications out there obviously not taking care of that and simply going for the free bottles. How does that influence your work at the same time?
Olivier Ward: It’s difficult, but the best thing we’ve done is to refuse to publish any article about a gin that is less than 9 months and hide our address, so people don’t send samples blind and then expect something. I’ll only call in a sample once we’ve asked at least a dozen questions about where, who and how it’s made, which puts off a lot of producers who just want quick exposure. I love it because it means we can focus on what someone is actually doing, rather than get caught up in the hype. I’ve been writing about gin for 9 years now, so not just Gin Foundry - many of the blogs and feeds that are just in it for the freebee disappear after a few years as there’s nothing to sustain them. Our goal has always been to support the category by providing high quality education and insight, so you’ve got to go slower, take more time to and see the bigger picture in order to do that.
Jan Persiel: Coming to Hamburg for the first time with Junipalooza is a big step I assume. It is a market which speaks a different language, does not necessarily know about the gin foundry and it’s creators after all. What made you decide that it is worth a try?
Emile Ward: It is indeed a big step entering a new market especially since we don't speak the language but we are very excited about the German market. There are more distilleries here than anywhere else in the world and a real passion in making spirits. We know the Gins here are of fantastic quality but also that the public is eager to learn about who is behind these products and not just the way they taste (although that is important too!). For us, it is a great way to expand our audience but it is also an opportunity to bring into the German market some amazing gins from the UK and Australia who need a way in. That's why we have gins like Masons, LoneWolf and 6 O'Clock coming from the UK and Four Pillars, McHenry and Broken Heart coming from Australia and New Zealand. Crucially however, we also hope to bring many German gins back into the UK and Australia in years to come.
Jan Persiel: Are there any plans to extend your reach into the German-speaking-gin-territories by starting local / native language workshops, publications, etc.?
Emile Ward: At the moment, we are taking it step by step and Junipalooza is our main focus and we chose Hamburg for a specific reason over Berlin or Munich. We are excited to build this show here in this city and the key for us is to make sure that we do each thing we start well, not just do lots of projects. Of course, we’ll look into opportunities as they come and if they are right.
Jan Persiel: What personally, or as gin foundry, worries you about the state of gin? And what are you expecting to happen in the near future, be it positive or negative, or either of those?
Olivier Ward: There’s a lot of both very positive and incredibly damaging things happening in gin right now. It’s important to acknowledge both but to ensure that the negativity and the issues the categories has are dealt with, while maintaining the momentum those doing brilliant things have achieve. A lack of juniper, a lack of enforcement of regulations and a huge influx of new entries that are poor quality are huge problems right now, but not insurmountable. On the other side, you have clever innovation, re-interpretations of old classics and recipes from archives all being brought back, so it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re expecting there to be a contraction in 2019, as there’s too many gins that are not good enough for all of them to survive, we don’t see that as a bad thing however, that’s just natural selection and the best will continue to be successful. We’re also seeing a move towards curated shelves in bars, shops and at home cabinets. The giant gin collection has been a trend, but the opposite is starting now just like it did with wine cellar and menus in the 00’s.
Jan Persiel: Thanks a lot for your time guys and best of luck for both Junipalooza and the other projects.
Tickets, information about the festival
Junipalooza Hamburg takes place on:
- Friday, 21st of September 2018 from 17:00 until 21:00
- Saturday, 22nd of September 2018 from 13:00 until 19:00
More information on the official website Junipalooza Hamburg and follow @junipalooza on Instagram as well for more details and current information about the makers and the event. Get your tickets online at eventbrite.
GinGinGin will be covering the event on on Instagram (@ginginginde) and here on the blog as well during the event and afterwards.