Since its official launch in February 2014, Gin Foundry has made it its mission to become the online home of gin. With over a hundred distillery profiles and over 20 gin-based cocktail descriptions featured on the site, it’s on its way. Co-founder Olivier Ward calls it an “online Wiki, but for gin specifically.” However, as host of the U.K.’s biggest gin festival Junipalooza; purveyor of the Ginvent advent calendar, and author of a pleasingly geeky Ginfographic, Gin Foundry is so much more.
“We set out to establish an online repository where people can go and find out accurate and independent information about the gins they know and love.” Olivier tells us. “The idea wasn’t to create a blog about what we have tasted, it was more to tell the stories of these gins: how they are made (and) the people behind them.”
Olivier, who founded the site with his brother Emile, had previously worked in the spirits industry on the agency side, working with brands including Hendricks in its early development. That first foray into gin, and the insight gained from visiting distilleries when there were still only 10-15 in the U.K., (there are currently over 120) “set the whole thing alight.”
At the beginning of his venture into the gin world, Olivier found that the stories of the makers were undertold. “It’s as much about the people who make it as the gin they make,” he says. “The stories about why they set out on their journey are as interesting and captivating as the spirits they make.”
One of the most memorable distillery profiles they have featured on the site is that of Elephant Gin, which gives 15 percent of its profits to wildlife conservation in Africa. “When you hear that side of it — where it has nothing to do with the spirit they make (but) it’s the extras that the gin allows them to do outside of the drinks industry — that puts it into perspective.” Says Olivier.
On the flavor front, asked for notable gins they have come across recently, Emile mentions Blackwater from the Republic of Ireland while Olivier notes Shortcross from Northern Ireland. “If you look at the island (Ireland) as a whole,” says Olivier, “it is slightly behind the crest of craft distilling but is really picking up. In 2016 there will be over 30 distilleries opening up (so) Blackwater and Shortcross have caught it early and are on the crest of the wave.”
The idea behind the hugely popular Ginvent, their gin advent calendar, Emile says, is that “we try to bring gin to people around the world.” Whereas Junipalooza is an event where Gin Foundry acts as a hub; Ginvent allows them the opportunity to go people’s homes, so to speak.
Behind each of the calendar’s 24 doors is a 30 milliliter bottle of a different gin. The contents are carefully curated to ensure different styles and different regions are represented and, throughout the advent, Gin Foundry updates its social media with information on the featured brand and daily ‘meet the maker’ interviews. After that, it is up to the consumer to decide how to take their dram each day, though, Olivier suggests, the 30 milliliter allows you to do a little neat and still have enough left for a small gin and tonic.
On their own calendar for 2016 is a ‘bigger and better’ Junipalooza, which will potentially be going international. Gin Foundry also plan to grow the number of distilleries featured on the site to as many as 300, and, Olivier says, “to really be able to consolidate on what is a great start, but given that gin as a category is exploding so fast, just keeping up and making sure that wherever you are in the world you can get access to information that isn’t often on the makers’ websites themselves.