Jeremy Spencer and Jason Chan (along with friends James Clarke and Paul White) founded West Winds Gin because, well, they love gin. Keen to share their love of the classic spirit with everyone in Melbourne, they decided to throw a gin festival, and Juniperlooza was born. “It’s our idea, but it’s not our party,” says Spencer. “It’s everyone’s party.”
“We want people to come and further their knowledge of gin,” he explains. To this end, the two-day festival will feature gin bars, tastings and masterclasses and “some sort of immersive herb garden”, to get people thinking about the possibilities of the drink.
Spencer is firm on the point that gin should be universally beloved. “People say, ‘I don’t like gin.’ Well, no – you probably don’t like tonic,” he says. “Let’s make some fresh watermelon juice to go with it and see how you go.” Notable advance hype at this point goes to the gin spider and watermelon cooler, but there will be a variety of tonics to try, or if you want something sweeter, gin-and-tonic sorbets and a range of gin cocktail ice-creams.
West Winds have teamed up with riverside venues Riverland and Pilgrim Bar, “one of the closest things we can get to being in WA.” Pilgrim will play host to the local players: the West Winds crew, obviously, as well as Andrew Marks from The Melbourne Gin Company, and Four Pillars’ Cam Mackenzie; the Archie Rose Distilling Co, The Grove Experience, Bass and Flinders, Kangaroo Island Spirits, Blind Tiger and the Adelaide Hills Distillery.
International makers will be over at Riverland. Spencer is keen for local enthusiasts to have the chance to try labels such as Hayman's Gin (England's oldest gin distilling family), Jensen's, or The Botanist, from the remote Isle of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides.
There’ll be food, too and pop up stalls from Melbourne institutions such as Gin Palace and Bad Frankie. But the main idea behind the festival is to bring people together for a good time. Spencer can’t stress this enough: “we just want to party.”
So far it all sounds pretty informal, and a lot of fun. “It’s all about working with our friends and just having a bit of a party with our mates,” says Spencer. “It’s a very Melbourne thing – everyone grabs a shovel and soon you’ve dug a hole.”
Juniperlooza runs from midday–8pm on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 November. Tickets are $25, and are available online from Monday 2 November.