Foraging Distills Seasonal Beauty

We were sitting in the front office of BeGin Distilling Ltd, with co-owners Jo and Dave James. I could not believe how good my life was, I was about to have a nosey into the distillery where both Juno Extra Fine Gin and the delicious seasonal single batch Juno Gins are produced.

I was trying to contain myself, rather unsuccessfully, “How are the Juniper bushes going? They are bushes aren’t they or are they trees?”. Dave was happy to answer my rapid-fire questions, as over-enthusiastic as they may have been, as he patiently explained the details of the long-term Juniper Berry project he and Jo were working on. They have partnered with New Zealand horticulturalists to develop the first commercial crops of the fundamental botanical in the country. So far, a few plant varieties may be an option however we’re still five years away from the first harvest, like everyone else I’ll have to be patient. To answer the question though, the New Zealand juniper berries will come from a small tree.

We get to chatting about gin, and why Jo and Dave started a gin business some three years ago now. The most striking thing to me is the affinity the owners have with botanicals, both Jo and Dave speak with passion when it comes to seeds, roots, fruits, spices and more. There is the process of distilling the gin from their thrice distilled extra neutral spirit, the water from Mt Taranaki, and refining the subtleties of taste, but this couple relishes the thought of hunting and gathering their botanicals. Foraging from seasonal produce and abundant crops which may be located in a sister’s garden, a friend’s prolific fruit tree or perhaps along a stream on a nearby farm; they truly live, watching and taking note of Mother Nature and her seasonal bounty, harvesting and incorporating what they believe to best represent the specific time of the year.

We’re taken through the health and safety requirements before we head into the distillery to meet Jenny and Lila, the beautiful stills that make the delicious gins. Lila, the copper goddess, and most recent addition was designed and engineered by a local company, Rivet Engineering. Her still door is open, and we are encouraged to poke our head into the empty still, one can smell the lingering and rich aroma of past batches, a heady perfume which required a second inhalation.

The distillery floor is covered in several boxes, Jo laughs as she talks about the little room they have to manoeuvre when the indents of their black bottles arrive from France. Not only are the bottles beautiful and great for marketing, but they also serve an important purpose to protect the natural botanicals in the gin, from daylight.

Winter is here, not just the season, but we are lucky enough to have planned our trip to coincide with the quarterly first pour of Juno’s small-batch seasonal gin. This time the batch is focused on rhubarb and quince. These exquisite batch releases are limited, and one must be in quick as there are a number of gin lovers who eagerly await each seasonal release. Before we leave the distillery for a night to remember, I ensured I had procured a bottle of Summer 2019, in its beautiful black bottle and distinctive labelling, as the perfect thank you gift for a dear friend.

Gover St. Bistro, in central New Plymouth, was the function venue for Winter 2020 Juno Gin Pour. We were presented with an outstanding four-course set menu with each course perfectly designed to complement the specific Juno Gin cocktail designed by Jo. From the pairing of pink peppercorn crusted seared tuna with a Poets Spritz featuring Summer 20 Gin, confit of duck paired with a Goddess and Saint, featuring Juno Extra Fine Gin (my personal favourite); the food was superb, the service outstanding, and the cocktails sumptuous. I can certainly see why Gover St. Bistro was chosen by Jo and Dave and why it would be the perfect spot for an engagement, cocktail party, anniversary and more.

(L to R: Lila in all her glory, 2020 Seasonal Releases to date, First Course at Gover St Bistro)

There were more than fifty people in attendance, and everyone paid attention when Jo announced the release of Winter 2020 with the third course – a dessert of shortcake, rosewater custard and rhubarb with the Winter 2020 single batch cocktail “Winter Dreaming” an experience of lychee, lemon, agave, elderflower, honey, coconut cream, and rose petals – delicious. The final course of manchego with quince two ways set the scene for closing with Juno Winter 2020 neat, perfect.

At the end of a delightful evening, with huge thank yous and hugs, we left feeling that we had made new friends and had been privy to something rather special.

If you would like to treat someone in your life, I can highly recommend a Juno Gin First Pour Event, alternatively, one can order a seasonal gin or Juno Extra Fine Gin and have it delivered anywhere in New Zealand – your choice really.

To order your special gin, go to Juno Gin 

And if you’d like to book a function, hop on over to Gover St Bistro