What did you do before creating Junimperium Distillery and Gins?
I started my career as fashion designer. I studies at the Estonian Art University and I worked in the fashion business for almost 22 years. In 2006 I made a change and I jumped into the restaurant business, developing the international Italian food franchise chain called Vapiano in Finland and the Baltic States. I think both of those periods have given me the inspiration and courage to take another new direction and to dive into a new world, the world of gin, distillation and spirits.
What made you decide to create your distillery and gins?
I have enjoyed grappa in the past and I collected quite a lot of them. Somehow years ago I started to notice nice and inspiring gin bottles coming to a market. I started to investigate and study the flavours and botanicals behind them, the production process etc. I started to collect gins and I educated myself about the world of gins, trying to find the perfect gin for myself. I think the biggest impulse was the moment when my wife noticed that all our cabinets at home were full with gins, and said "Stop buying them as you don’t like the most of them anyway. Make your own, it will be easier than finding your favourite!’’ Then I met my distiller and the rest is history as they say.
What is the story behind the Junimperium name?
The story behind the name is very important and has a strong impact for the products. We are Junimperium, the Empire of Junipers. And to prove that fact, we use multiple junipers from around the world. Inside our Blended Dry Gin we are using unique mix of 4 different junipers from different places to get the aromatic and very smooth backbone. For our Sloe Gin we use the world's sweetest junipers to get extra sweet juniper touches to the gin. Our unique juniper wood cap is also a part of our story. It is a hook to our brand story , but also is a strong element of our design.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
Our distillery is located in the trendiest area of Tallinn, called Telliskivi. It’s an old industrial area from the late 1800’s, which is now renovated and turned into the area where you'll find innovative start-up companies, nice restaurants and bars, the famous Fotografiska photo museum, concert halls etc. It's a very inspiring neighbourhood.
Our distillery is approx. 300m2, including the distilling and production area and also the distillery bar, offering great cocktails made with our gins, selling gins to the visitors and also hosting the distillery tours. We have currently two copper stills, where we distill each of our botanicals separately. To be able to make our Blended Dry Gin, we have to make seven distillations, a distillation for each botanical. This makes the process longer but it means that I can control the flavour better. All the bottling and labelling is done by hand. For some gins I still write the batch and bottle number on the label myself even today - I like this personal touch.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour/tasting?
Our distillery tour lasts almost two hours. It includes the history of gin, the Junimperium story, the botanicals and story behind each of our gins, and a tasting of at least four of our gins. We also show visitors the distilling area, labelling and bottling process etc. The goal is to be inspiring and educational for our visitors, to tell and show them how long and complicated the process is if you want to achieve the best. We also teach visitors how to taste and discover the gins, how to make a perfect serve, and what the main principles are to make the best Gin & Tonic.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
I think one of the biggest challenges has been to move from the testing period into the production phase, where we have to repeat and keep the quality every day. Another challenge is that we have grown very fast and if the planned growth is to continue, it puts new challenges in our path - how to be more effective, should we look for new stills, labelling lines etc. You can’t grow if you have even one weak link.
How would you describe your gins in a sentence?
Outstanding, well-balanced, honest and made with passion. We don’t make just gin, we want to make the best possible gin. It’s an endless process towards to perfection.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
I love to enjoy our Blended Dry Gin with a thin wedge on lemon, a sprig of thyme and some juniper berries. I also love to sip our Rhubarb Edition Gin neat, and of course, our fantastic and fruity Sloe Gin. For the festive occasions I do enjoy a 'Sloe Royale' with Sloe Gin and Champagne.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
Of the well-known gins I keep Tanqureay 10 Gin, Ophir Gin, Gin Mare, Bobby's Gin and G’Vine Floraison. But I am always exited to try new things. My favourites at the moment are Lind & Lime Gin, St. Augustin Gin from Florida, Lola y Vera Gin from Spain, and Peter of Florence Gin from Italy, to mention just some of them. I think every new gin is worth trying, but for it to become a favourite it has to be something special.
What's next for you and Junimperium - any exciting plans?
There are a lot of ideas going on in my head all the time. I call it a 'ginvisionery' work. Some ideas may work, some not. In 2021 we will launch a new flavoured gin – the Cherry Edition. I believe it will have a good welcome as there aren't many cherry gins out there. We still don’t have an Old Tom in our range or a barrel aged gin. But I’m working with both ideas and when I will find them, we will do them. They are both exciting ideas. Some great collaborations with other distilleries or with other spirits could be interesting in the future, to expand our borders.
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