New Plymouth’s Juno Gin is zero-waste from start to finish using Kiwi engineering and locally sourced ingredients.
To Juno Gin founders Jo and Dave James, the best way to conduct market research is by getting their gin into customers’ hands – served neat.
“It’s a revelation for them,” says Jo, “They often say, ‘I had no idea. I just fill my glass with gin, add my mixer, and drink it on a hot day after I mow the lawn.’”
Jo says that firstly, you should have a glass of water after mowing the lawn. But in the evening, you should sit down and savour something delicious.
It’s the love for ‘savouring’ food and drink that led Jo and Dave down the entrepreneurial path.
In 2015, Jo and Dave were in Australia working in health strategy and sustainability, respectively. Originally from New Zealand, they were eager for a change and eager to return home.
Instead of continuing to work in their fields, Jo and Dave decided to have a ‘genuine adventure’ and start a business together.
“We love food facilities, manufacturing premises, and working with flavour to deliver delicious things for people to enjoy,” Jo explains, “Quality is key, and it’s something we’re passionate about.”
When narrowing down to the things they knew and loved, the answer for Jo was gin.
In 2017, they moved to New Plymouth and founded Begin Distillery. With it, they launched Juno Gin.
Juno Gin is effectively zero-waste, so the way the still heats and handles by-products is unique. Liquids and solids are easily separated after the distilling process because the still was built on a platform that allows them to be transferred into holding tanks. The solids go to a local chocolatier, and the liquids go to a local brewery to make witbier.
Dave says that their still is the only one of its design in the world but that is not surprising as it was designed and built locally in New Plymouth.
“We wanted to have as little impact on the environment as we could,” Dave explains, “It’s another reason why we want to grow the botanicals here in New Zealand.”
Juno Gin is building a supply chain from the ground to the consumer. The only difficulty is the juniper berry – the ingredient that makes gin a gin.
The juniper tree is plentiful in the northern hemisphere, but not the southern. In the 1970s, there was a surge in popularity for the tree here, but due to its prickliness, longevity, and dioecious nature [male and female plants], they stopped importing them after ten years.
In 2019, Juno Gin started the Great Juniper Hunt, which encouraged the public to look out for these now 50-year-old trees. So far, they have identified 40 juniper trees. From this, Jo and Dave hope that they can grow the industry here in New Zealand.
For the rest of their ingredients, Juno Gin sources it all locally. Their seasonal and limited-edition range differs every year, depending on what ingredients are bountiful for horticulturists.
“We want to ‘hero’ these ingredients [in our gins] because they’re a genuine expression of time and place,” says Jo, “Every year is different.”
Dave says that a lot of the time, ideas for their seasonal gins result from what ‘shows up on their doorstep’ from horticulturists. Next year, Rangpur limes will feature in one of the four 2021 gins.
When Jo and Dave’s daughter smelled one of these limes, she said it took her right back to her travels in India.
“So, my idea for 2021 is ‘Travels in Your Mind’”, says Jo, “Next year, I’m going to let flavours do the travelling for us.”
Juno Gin is also launching a competition for local artists to create the labels for the 2021 range. The four winning labels will receive $1000 in cash and free gin.