This week we are taking a look at a part of the show that truly defines the whole thing for us – our Bursary spot. Each year, we love to take a distillery we think are doing something cool, different, unusual and interesting and give them a helping hand to be discovered by others who will, we’re certain, also be as enthused as we are.
The idea is simple, to champion a young outfit who would otherwise not be able to take place in the show, help them find their feet and in the process, your glass! We look at dozens of worthy, brilliant gin makers each year and base our decision on many criteria.
We look towards their potential as well as their current output, towards the people as much as the products they make, to what they stand for and to what they represent in the wider category.
So without further ado, we’re pleased to announce that Downton Distillery are this year’s Junipalooza Bursary holders.
Time to meet Hugh, Meike and Charles, along with their delicious Explorer’s Gin.
We have had a firm eye fixed on Downton Distillery for a while now. They may only be a few thousand bottles into their story having launched in December, but we’ve been tracking their journey, the toil and hard work it takes to set up for over a year. It’s been one momentous journey and one where hard graft, patient steps and a keen sense of when to go with the flow and when to hold steadfast and not compromise.
Nestled in the heart of England, on the banks of the River Avon stands a small village. The Downton Manor is a Grade I listed building that is said to be one of the longest inhabited houses in the South of England.
The Manor House became a valued centre of England in 1380, when it belonged to the Bishop of Winchester, William of Wykeham. It remained the residence of his successors until its lease for grace and favour to Queen Elizabeth I in 1560. She would later gift the Manor House to her favourite rising star of the Royal Court, Sir Walter Raleigh.
Downton Distillery can be found in a Grade 1 listed barn, adjacent to Downton Manor. The barn also has an old ship beam across its width, one of those that did not get used within the Manor. The barn, once used as a carriage shed, has been given a new lease of life as a distillery.
As a new artisan distiller, they have not only made a fantastic craft gin and bottled it in a seductive, bespoke package – they have captured something far greater and more unique too. There’s a zingy citrus ping on the nose, red cedar notes in the heart and a peppery finish but somehow, they’ve imbued the spirit of adventure itself in each sip.
This is a gin inspired by its geography and its hyper local (and very grand) history, but it’s still outwards focused. They’ve taken their truth as a trio and their sense of curiosity, combined that with the history of their provenance and run with it to create a unique flavour that’s truly authentic to who they are as a team and their location. Their Explorer’s Gin more than about being of somewhere and it’s not just another local gin with a twee story about yesteryear.
Downton Distillery is about looking to the horizon. It’s about escapism and exploration yet does so still firmly anchored by its characterful flavours and its location. It’s captured a sentiment that’s true to all of us – that of being inspired by great achievements and paying homage to them by working towards making your own path come true.
It is a New World gin and a daring idea underpinned by an authentic confidence and a dedication to the craft of ginsmithing. What they are doing – intentionally or not – is tapping into something within everyone and celebrating that sense of adventure. If that’s not contagious, we don’t know what is.
That is to us, the spirit of new craft distilleries. It’s that moment of inception, of taking the plunge of embarking on a quest. It’s the very idea that makes craft distilling so exciting and, it’s the embodiment of a show like Junipalooza. It has at its core a sense of wonderment and inspiration.
Explorer’s Gin is brave, bold, beautifully packaged and captured our attention by its inimitable ability to suspend disbelief and chart a course as you day dream about what could be if you too, were to pursue your sense of adventure to the fullest.
Written by Gin Foundry