What is your new juniper saplings initiative?
British juniper is one of the UK’s rarest and most delicate native plants; sadly the contingent has taken somewhat of a beating and has significantly declined in recent years. We wanted to support British juniper conservation efforts by encouraging our gin-loving fans to grow their very own juniper bush at home! Greenery is one of year’s biggest trends and growing plants is a great way to get outside, relax and reconnect with nature.
Throughout the summer, with every limited edition wrapped bottle from Waitrose, we’re sending green fingered gin aficionados a complimentary juniper sapling to grow at home. We’ve also made them available to buy via our online store. When the juniper bush harvests its first berries, growers can bring their berries to our new residence ‘The Distillery’ in the heart of Portobello Road. It’s here in our basement distillery that we use a traditional alembic copper still to make a unique British juniper distillate that our growers can then use to make their own bespoke bottle of gin to take home.
What happened to all the juniper and why is there a shortage?
Juniper is a hardy plant, but the British stock has encountered a number of problems such as disease and fragmented populations. In particular, the aromatic plant has been hit by a fungus like disease called Phytophthora Austrocedri which causes the bush to brown and die off.
Juniper also has difficulties regenerating as the older, larger bushes produce fewer seeds, while the younger, smaller ones are eaten by deer and rabbits.
Why is it important to be growing our own in the UK rather than in importing?
Despite it being a native tree species to the UK dating back to just after the last ice age, most brands - including Portobello Road Gin - are not currently able to viably use British juniper in their spirit because it is not available in abundance here which is a real shame.
As well as it being of use in the production of the nation’s favourite spirit, it is also of wonderful value to our wildlife and ecosystem. As passionate gin-educators, safe-guarding our UK juniper and improving its fortunes for the future is very important to us. We believe that, thanks to a rise in appreciation of craftsmanship and conservation, this is something that our customers are interested in getting behind as well.
We’ve already helped thousands of people to blend their own gin at The Ginstitute, Notting Hill and so we thought it would be fascinating to take it to the next step, by encouraging green-fingered fans to grow their own juniper berries at home that can then be distilled into a unique gin.
Is juniper it easy to grow?
Juniper is very easy to grow. Once planted, each bush requires little pruning and could live up to 170 years. To help our juniper supporters along the way, we’ve teamed up with the millennial gardener and author of ‘How To Grow Stuff’, Alice Vincent. Alice has provided some expert advice for growing a flourishing juniper bush from sapling to shrub whether you have a garden, allotment or concrete jungle. Her tips and tricks can be found on our
How long will it take for the saplings to produce juniper for gin?
It takes around two years for the berries to harvest!
And people can get their own juniper distilled at your distillery?
When the berries are harvested, growers can send them into our distillery where we will turn them into a unique British juniper distillate which they can then use to create their very own bespoke gin at one of our Ginstitute gin-making sessions.
As it is impossible for one bush to grow enough berries to make a full bottle of gin, we combine growers’ berries to make a unique British Juniper distillate batch that they can exclusively use at our Ginstitute!
Pop into Waitrose to pick up a special edition bottle of Portobello Road Gin, or buy your juniper sapling online via the Portobello Road Gin Shop.