Juniper for the gin

The fabulous Gin Palace in Melbourne

There has honestly never been a better time to be a gin drinker. ​

Walk into a well stocked bar, bottleshop or friend’s home and there is a cornucopia of juniper flavoured options available.

Every glass promising an adventure, every sip a potential revelation.

I guess you are waiting for the ‘but’ to be written in now. Be assured, that there is no such word coming. We live in exciting times in which the individuality of gin expressions have never been stronger.

From Sweden to Sydney drinkers can glimpse the place and purpose of a world of gin producers through a martini, negroni or the humble gin and tonic. Indeed, the power of place, the unique location of creation seems to writ large with many gin formulations. Native ingredients take the fore. And why not?

In this globalised world we live in there is a undeniable power in sampling gins which reflect their environment. It is part of the process of exploration for a gin drinker to find unique flavours from unheard of lands.

But,(and I guess we got around to that word eventually) we must ask, what happened to our old mate juniper? Is our understanding of gin being a juniper led spirit now wavering?  And should juniper still have a place of prominence amidst gins which have more to speak of than tradition?

Juniperus communis source: wikipedia

These are not easily navigated questions. They are in short, complex.  Yet there are some simple answers here as well. Perhaps the most useful of which lies with the attributes of juniper itself. Juniper is not just one flavour.

In fact, there is a large number of flavours that can be achieved by juniper.

Commonly juniper delivers the aroma of pine needles, spruce and christmas trees with a dry flavour that can be ever so slightly astringent.  And depending on where the juniper comes from, the growing season as well as the method of distillation many more accents can be brought to bear.

Through different types of infusion or maceration or indeed a combination, the distiller can craft a spirit which demonstrates a plethora of favours. It is not uncommon to create a some complex citrus elements leaning towards lime or lemon. With the right combination of factors, a floral elements can be drawn out.

Equally, a pronounced earthiness may be extracted from the juniper, remarkably similar to the earthiness of angelica root or juniper tinctures used for aromatherapy. Juniper can deliver a medicinal aspect which tends towards the aromas of blue fruits.
These are but a few faces of juniper.    So why is the versatility of juniper so critical to its use?

To come back to our original questions, perhaps it is not merely the pungency or prevalence of juniper that needs to change but rather our understanding of this remarkable ingredient. This may be realised by producers putting the flexibility of this ingredient to good use.

If a citrus led style of gin is in mind perhaps juniper could be used to good effect. It is easy for brands and indeed drinkers to differentiate gins on the market by the use of novel ingredients and it should be noted, that there is something powerful and compelling in being able to do that.

Yet perhaps brands and drinkers, both passionate breeds of gin lovers, should be reflecting on what qualities can be showcased by the most humble of gin ingredients. If unconventional ingredients can be used which question tradition, it may well be time to challenge whether juniper can offer more than the classic piney aroma.

One thing is for certain, juniper is here to stay as an ingredient. Whether it continues to loose ground in progressive new world styles remains to be seen. In any case, the answers to finding bolder and more complex flavour may be just under our nose.

Have we seen all that Juniper can offer? That is up to drinkers, producers and you.

Drink Well!


About our Guest Contributor


Born into a family of wine makers, Dave showed a keen interest in the field of wine production early in life, however quickly managed to impress his friends and disappoint his father by becoming a distiller. Rebellion can be a great motivator after all.

Dave’s relentless passion for spirits has driven him to run countless masterclasses, introductory programs as well as large scale tasting events. As a renowned spirits authority, he appears on industry tasting panels, has acted as a consultant to importers and distributed whisky and spirits in Sydney.

Dave is currently Master Distiller at Archie Rose Distilling Co. in Sydney and strongly believes in Australia’s unique distilling tradition.