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Published on March 10, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour


The Perfect Tonic

Newcastle and Durham festivals explore the secrets of gin

Assuming you have a taste for gin (and if not, why not?, we’ve got just the tonic for you – the first of three Juniper Planet gin festivals at South Northumberland Cricket Club, Gosforth, Newcastle on April 7, 8 and 9.

We’ve teamed up with festival organiser Juniper Planet, our sister magazines Appetite and Contact, and the folks at Relish Publications to celebrate the growing range of gins, botanicals and juniper-inspired cocktails being produced in the North East, Cumbria and Yorkshire. The Northumberland Gin Festival will be followed by two more – at Durham County Cricket Club (June 16-18) and in Bedale, North Yorkshire (September 8-9) -  and all three promise a fantastic line up of gins and tonics, food from regional chefs and producers, and live music. Here’s more…

Planet Juniper

Planet Juniper aims to bring together the widest range of gin, botanicals and juniper-inspired cocktails ever seen in the North East.

The three 2017 festivals – in Gosforth, Newcastle, in April, Durham in June, and Bedale, North Yorkshire in September – will each feature more than 70 gins and highlight the region’s fast-growing range of distilleries.

The quiet revolution in distilleries across the North of England has inspired the events, where established brands such as The Lakes Distillery will appear. Guests will also include Poetic License in Sunderland, The Moorland Distillery in Northumberland, home of the outstanding Hepple Gin, the enigmatic Steampunk, Masons Yorkshire Gin in Bedale, and significant players like Alnwick Gin and The Durham Distillery.

As well as a range of VIP experiences on offer, each festival will include free tastings and the opportunity to explore the widest range of gins on the UK market. Fever-Tree is the official drinks partner, and every visitor will also have free access to Fevertree mixers and botanical drinks. Festival director Mark Carton says: “We want to show that gin is more than just juniper berries; the sophisticated and complex range of options make gin a drink for every taste. It’s fantastic that so many of our partners are using our festivals to showcase their full range, with Poetic License also launching a limited edition Picnic Gin at our event in April in Newcastle.”

The three Planet Juniper festivals will each take place over three days, each with around 80 gins on offer, a VIP offer including gin cocktail bar, gifts and an exclusive gin flight featuring the premium small batch gins available at each festival.

Hepple Gin and juniper

This award-winning premium gin originates from Northumberland, where the Hepple estate is renowned as something of a Gin Eden. It lies in the wild and remote Northumberland National Park, home to four of the UK’s cleanest rivers, the country’s darkest skies and some of its most charming people.

Water of great purity rises from deep within the sandstone hills that surround the distillery and as well as providing the distillery’s water, these springs sustain a tremendous variety of aromatic plants, including the ancient juniper from which the team here pick the young green berries unique to Hepple Gin, strands of sweet gale (or bog myrtle) by the burns, Douglas Fir in the woods and lovage and blackcurrant in the Hepple garden.

These hills also provide the spirit of the gin, which is so crisp and clean it almost crackles in the air. Through its link with the Hepple Estate, Hepple Gin is also engaged in one of the most ambitious juniper restoration and propagation projects in the UK. As well as promoting the healthy growth of the current population of junipers at Hepple, the team has started a successful propagation programme from the estate’s native juniper seed, with plans to plant many hundreds of seedlings every year in areas supportive of young plants, adding to the great work which is already undertaken by the National Parks.

Meanwhile, inside the distillery, Moorland uses cutting-edge techniques to capture the taste of gin’s foremost ingredient more completely than is possible using conventional distillation. The technique takes seven times longer than usual methods and is designed to capture the taste of juniper in high definition.

From this autumn, a rather more traditional but equally ambitious plan has been given the go-ahead by Natural England to rebuild the once-mighty juniper colony on the hills around the distillery, and again Moorland is fully involved.

Lakes Explorer makes its debut

On the back of the fastest sell-out of a limited batch of gin in its history, The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria is set to re-release its award-winning The Lakes Gin Explorer Edition as a permanent member of its family of spirits.

With a nod to diversity, the powder cornflower blue hues with a matte finish and stunning visuals elevate the bottle and the eagerly anticipated contemporary design even features beautiful laser-etched botanicals.

This super premium version of the distillery’s multi award-winning The Lakes Gin features an eclectic mix of 15 carefully curated botanicals, including local Cumbrian juniper and six botanicals native to the Lake District National Park.

On the nose is a combination of zesty orange citrus, coriander and cassia bark followed by hints of Earl Grey tea and cracked black pepper. The palate is almost herbal and complex with vibrant notes of juniper, spice and coriander. Black pepper dominates and leads to a long peppery finish.

The Gin

With more than 80 gins on offer at the first event – the three-day Northumberland Gin Festival in April – there’s plenty on offer to whet your appetite. Sunderland’s Poetic License will launch a limited-edition Picnic Gin at the event, while Northumberland’s Moorland Distillery, Hepple Gin and Steampunk will also be on site. Alnwick Gin, The Durham Distillery and Masons Yorkshire Gin from Bedale will also be available, while official drinks partner Fever-Tree will provide the best mixers and botanical drinks.
Festival director Mark Carton says: “Gin is more than just juniper berries, and the festival will showcase the sophisticated and complex range available.”

The Food

Northumberland Gin Festival will bring together three of the North’s best street food operators. Indian street food pioneers Dabbawal will be bringing the best of Mumbai’s street food fresh from their Jesmond and Newcastle city centre kitchens, the boys from La Petite Crêperie will be serving up sweet and savoury crêpes throughout the day, and the Scream for Pizza camper van-turned pizzeria will be cooking up a storm all day long.

The Company

On top of all the top notch food and drink, there’s live music throughout the weekend and the Cheers team will be there along with corporate partners from across the North of England.


Planet Juniper is showcasing more than 80 gins at its first festival on April 7-9 at South Northumberland Cricket Club, Gosforth, Newcastle NE3 1LU
Coming up: Durham County Cricket Club, Riverside Stadium, Chester le Street, June 16-18
Purchase tickets at www.planetjuniper.co.uk


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Alastair Gilmour

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