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Gin Tasting

Gin Tasting, Social Kitchen, West End Precinct, New Plymouth

When you’re invited to a gin tasting, I’m not sure there’s any other response then “I’ll be there”.

I bound over to Strategy Collectives’ headquarters and am introduced to Jo and Dave James, the owners of an exciting New Plymouth startup; Begin Distilling. I spy a row of glass bottles all identified only by a number. A small group of us are in attendance, with differing expertise ranging from roasting coffee to graphic design and we’re here to try some early gin flavour profiles.

Thus begins my relationship with Juno Gin, and I’m immediately blown away with the passion Jo and Dave have for their product. It’s infectious. We get straight into the sampling and I’m surprised at the stark differences between each cup. While all contain the base note of juniper berries, one has an obvious citrus notes, another more complex and balanced with many different flavours. “We’re looking to craft a sipping gin” Jo says.

Dave pours me the last gin of the tasting. It’s obvious this one is different. While the previous ones had been crystal clear, this one is a pale white colour in the glass. “I believe I got too much of the juniper oils in this batch” Dave mentions “I think that is what has caused the cloudiness.” I bury nose into this final glass revel at it. This gin is exciting, it’s herbaceous and makes my mouth water with anticipation of a sip. I’ve never been a fan of aniseed and liquorice, but here these notes make the gin sing Everything has come into balance with this one; the sweet fruitiness combining with the warming of the alcohol is highlighted by a rich bouquet of botanicals. For once, everyone is in agreement; this gin is something special.

Jo, Dave and I meet at the distillery a few weeks later so I can better understand their distilling process. Beautiful copper pot stills sit in their warehouse, alongside bundles of various botanicals. “We’re attempting to source as many of our ingredients from local farms as possible.” I’m informed by Jo, “and the one’s that are not being commercially grown here, we’re asking them to plant.” It’s these relationships that are being formed around the gin that excites me. Dave tells me how he got a tip about some wild angelica growing in a forest near Otorohunga. “Angelica root is great at acting as a binding agent in the gin, and provides an earthly herbaceous flavour.”

I’m here to work with them on cocktail concepts; beverages that enhance the qualities in the gin while being inviting and achievable to make at home. “I think a gin drink needs to be accessible to the customer, straight from their fridge or their garden. Subtle aromatics that compliment the natural bouquet of gin flavours”.

Inspired by Jo’s vision of “garden to glass” we forage through Jo’s garden picking edible flowers. These I’ll incorporate into ice cubes to provide a beautiful garnish on the long drinks. We select a range of citrus fruit and some beautiful fresh rhubarb to develop the cocktails recipes. Sophisticated, elegant and accessible cocktails for you to enjoy at home.

Written by Courtney Ertel


A shaker or stirring glass

A bar spoon (or teaspoon)

A strainer

Cocktail glass

60mls Juno Gin

5mls Rhubarb Syrup

Ice (for mixing)

A dash of Orange Blossom Water

To garnish: Rhubarb Ribbon


Step 1
Chill your cocktail glass (the easiest way is to fill it with ice)

Step 2
Add plenty of ice and the rhubarb syrup to your shaker/stirring glass and stir to make sure the ice is coated with rhubarb syrup, then use your strainer to pour away the excess

Step 3
Add the Juno Gin to the shaker/stirring glass and stir the mixture for about 30 seconds to chill and dilute

Step 4
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and garnish with  a rhubarb ribbon and a dash of orange blossom water