Global Juniper Shortage Blamed On SA Producer
The ongoing global juniper shortage has entered a new phase, with even small spirit producers being called out for irresponsible usage of the key botanical used in gin.
1st April, 2021.
Since being recognised several years ago, the continued decline of the European juniper crop has been a worrying development for all gin producers across the world. Europe supplies over 90% of the worlds juniper to gin distillers.
Up until this point it was the multinationals that were targeted as the main contributors to the global juniper drain but it seems one of the key culprits is the booming Australian gin industry, in particular a very small-scale Australian producer, Never Never Distilling Co.
Juniper Freak Gin, one of Never Never‘s vintage releases, has been discovered to use 50 times more juniper than a regular gin on the shelf. Added to this, Juniper Freak’s production has escalated over 6500% in 3 years. Even for a small operation, that’s a lot of berries.
Leader of the European Growers Union Lars Van Syke believes it’s smaller brands such as Never Never that are the growing cause of a global problem.
“It’s really only been in the last 5 to 6 years that we have seen such extreme pressure on supply,” Mr Van Syke says. “This correlates with an explosion of small producers all around the world but in particular producers who focus on using more juniper than is traditionally required,” he continues.
“Most producers tend to only use a little bit, and then add more of the other stuff, like rhubarb or ginger or rose petal to make the gin flavour,” he says. “For whatever reason, this gin uses more juniper than most of the other gins on the market put together and it’s a major drain on our juniper resources,” Mr Van Syke says.
He concludes that “drastic changes need to happen” before gin as we know it will no longer feature juniper at all.
Sean Baxter, Co-Founder and Brand Director at Never Never Distilling Co. found the claims ludicrous and ignored the vast quantities of berries used by the major players of the global gin market.
“To signal us out as a key contributor to the decline of one of the world’s most prolific and ancient conifer cones is absolutely ridiculous,” Mr Baxter said. “Sure, Juniper Freak uses a gobsmacking amount of juniper, but there’s heaps of other gin brands that don’t use any at all so it should all even itself out shouldn’t it”?
“I’m not going to come out and suggest that there isn’t a large amount of juniper used in our production process, I mean, we call it out on the label,” Baxter says. “What’s hurtful is ignoring the larger gin brands who, although only use a fraction of the juniper we do, still churn out heaps more volume.”
Every Juniper Freak Gin bottle comes with a warning that the product contains “more juniper than 18th Century London” and also recommends the drinker to not “be a dick”.
Stern words from those who seem to be clearly stirring the metaphoric pot of pricks that forms the growing genital stew of European trade shortages.
This is all coming in the wake of the 2020 Juniper Freak vintage release, set to happen in late March, with over 15,000 bottles hitting the shelves in the coming weeks.
This years ‘Freak’ is said to contain some of the most prolific use of the juniper berry to date, a stat which is sure to inflame international tensions even more.
It is a situation that is being closely monitored by the European Growers Union with juniper levy’s the undoubted consequence if juniper numbers continue to steadily decline.
“A juniper tax payable by all distilleries would be a welcomed move,” says Baxter, “but only if the payments are publicly accessible, so we can see who those distilleries are that perhaps are a little light on when it comes to their juniper flavour.”
Pre-sales for the 2020 Juniper Freak Gin vintage launches on Never Never Distilling Co.’s website on March 30st and in retailers shortly afterwards.
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