Home gin-making craze sends sales of juniper berries soaring
Evan Kakulas has never sold so many juniper berries in his life.
The third-generation owner of Perth grocery store Kakulas Brothers said demand for the berries had doubled in the past 12 months.
He put it down to one thing — the berries are the essential ingredient in gin, and a growing number of people are making it.
Evan Kakulas says sales of juniper berries have soared in the past year. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
“People are coming in the doors and they’re telling me that they’re making their own gin at home, and because of that we’re selling twice as many juniper berries as we used to,” Mr Kakulas said.
“They happily share their secrets on how they do it.
“Some are distilling it in their backyard, others are buying the neutral spirit and mixing it.
“It’s a good thing.”
Juniper berries give gin its distinctive botanical flavour. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
The in drink
Mr Kakulas’s observation is backed by some compelling statistics.
A 2013 survey by market researchers Roy Morgan found gin consumption had grown by 50 per cent since 2009, becoming the second-most consumed spirit across in Australia.
More than 160 boutique and larger-scale gin distillers are now registered in Australia.
The Australian Gin Distillers Association formed in 2017 after its chief executive, former winemaker Judith Kennedy, noticed a changing of the guard in the spirits industry.
“The statistics are huge and it’s hard to put your finger exactly on why,” she said.
“Sometimes these things just snowball without any particular starting point that is all that obvious.”
Gin has become a hugely popular base ingredient in cocktails and mixers. (Supplied: Tony Hill)
Ms Kennedy said research by the association suggested the largest consumers of gin were women aged 20 to 35.
“I think because it’s a fairy glamorous drink — the cocktails are extremely glamorous — I think it’s really taken off and become the in drink,” she said.
“Gin is something that doesn’t need the vintage time that whiskey does or indeed most wines do.
“A quality gin can be made and turned around in quite a short time and I think that’s very attractive to small businesses.”
Distillers in a hurry
In 2017, Mark Harris gave up his 30-year career as an air traffic controller to become a gin distiller, opening the boutique Sin Gin with his wife Kate Sinfield in West Perth.
He attributed the gin revival to social media and ongoing interest in organic food and drink.
Mark Harris owns the Sin Gin boutique distillery in West Perth. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
“With gin, there’s very few calories in it, it’s a very clean spirit, no carbs, it’s vegan,” Mr Harris said.
“A lot of it is being driven by Instagram and Facebook.
“You get your followers up, you say you’re releasing a new gin and there’s only 100 bottles, and you can sell those 100 bottles within a few days because people are looking for the next experience.”
Mr Harris said the distilling process took just a few hours, meaning distillers could continually meet demand.
“The longest part of the process of making a gin is actually developing a recipe; it’s about figuring out what works together, making something that is a bit different, making test batches, testing it on people.
“Once it’s settled down you can put it in a bottle and sell it, and if you can bring out a new gin once a month, you’ll get those repeat customers coming back.”
Kate Sinfield and Mark Harris’s gin has won national awards. (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)
Revival likened to craft beer explosion
Ms Sinfield said gin had undergone a dramatic image makeover in recent years.
“I have a lot of people who come up to me and say, ‘I hate gin’, and I say, ‘Well, have you tried local craft gin?'” she said.
“I think that’s the same thing as with beer; beer was horrid for a long time, it was just lager and nasty and mass produced.
“But now the amount of fantastic locally produced and internationally produced craft beer is just amazing.
“It’s the same with gin.”
Ms Sinfield said she saw demand for gin only growing, despite WA’s relatively small population.
“We have enough people here to have some fun with it.”
Could Australians be sipping gin and tonic with their turkey this Christmas? (ABC Radio Perth: Gian De Poloni)