11/06/2015 10:23 BST | Updated 10/06/2016 06:59 BST

It's World Gin Day on Saturday, so Meet the London Brothers Behind the Largest Gin Specific Website in the World


After the dry month of January had faded - and with it the nation's annual attempt at sobriety - I wrote about a number of craft distilleries on the London doorstep. It became something of an enjoyable learning curve, as I ginned up on the social carnage of the Gin Craze of the early 18th century and beyond.

Gin has reclaimed lost ground since then. From James Bond to the Queen Mother, gin is firmly embedded in our national psyche, be it shaken not stirred, or served with Dubonnet. But - as my article inferred - big brand names such as Schweppes and Gordon's no longer dominate. These days, craft distillers - typified by the likes of Sipsmith in Chiswick - have increased in number and influence as the modern consumer kicks back against the mass-produced monocultures.

As ever, the more one delves, the more one discovers. Soon after my column hit the streets, I was told about the Gin Foundry - an online destination for anything and everything gin-related, run by brothers Emile and Olivier Ward from a base in Twickenham, South West London.

Put succinctly, it's a gin lover's heaven. Billed as 'the largest gin specific website in the world', it is drenched with detail; pages of tasting notes and background information about the many craft gins on the market, including places to buy and tips on how to serve; as well as cocktail recipes, interviews with leading makers and even statistics on the nation's drinking habits.

What's more, this virtual compendium is fortified further by a range of physical products, such as gin-making kits, a gin tasting wheel and even the world's first alcohol filled advent calendar.

I meet Emile and Olivier at an independent coffee shop and remark that the parallels between the rise of artisan coffee and the craft distiller are obvious.

"Oh yes, absolutely," says Olivier, whose background in booze (he worked for Anonymous Artists who helped launch Hendricks Gin) has informed his obsession. "We could see early on that gin was going to be massive."

Their predictions came true, not only for the industry but for them; what started out as a hobby became a rapidly expanding full-time pursuit as of January last year. Olivier is the public face of Gin Foundry - you may have seen him on Channel 4's Sunday Brunch presenting gins and gin cocktails in the 'drinky poos' segment. He also pens the online entries for each brand, from small-scale operations to large ones. Emile's love of statistics means there's no end of infographics and insights online about the way the world consumes its gin.

"Distilleries have a distinct voice," Olivier explains. "You can take the same song, but it will sound completely different depending on who sings it - and it's the same with gin."

"But there's more to the appeal of craft distilleries than just taste. People really appreciate these brands for other reasons too, such as provenance, as well as the passion and dedication of the distillers."

While the brothers estimate that consumers now have - on average - three to four types of gin in the drinks cabinet, it is the gin and tonic that remains the UK's favourite. Although the way we take it has begun to evolve. Hipster favourite Hendrick's was critical in breaking new ground, serving its gin in china cups with a slice of cucumber.

"The G&T has been reinvented," explains Olivier. "Not only are drinkers becoming more discerning about tonic water - with Fever Tree and Fentimans becoming the go-to brands of choice - they are also pushing the boundaries."

"You don't have to stick to lemon either," adds Emile. "You can garnish your G&T with flat-leaf coriander and chili, or even rhubarb sticks."

In addition, there has been a significant rise in the popularity of gin-based cocktails such as martinis and negronis, thanks, partly to what the brothers refer to as 'the Mad Men effect'.

Happily, the sum of all this knowledge can be appreciated in person at the brothers' gin festival, Junipalooza, which took place for the first time last year at an industrial warehouse in Shoreditch. This year's event (June 13 - 14), coincides with World Gin Day and will be held in an old vinyl factory in Soho, is destined to be just as hip and sophisticated - though if you haven't already got a ticket, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.

"It's the only event where you can meet master distillers and makers from all over the world," explains Emile. "It's a unique opportunity to meet these dedicated individuals and learn more about the process and the products."

The festival is divided up into two sessions during which makers will be selling and giving samples of their wares. Olivier will be hosting masterclasses and there will also be three bars hosted by some of the world's best bartenders and where there'll also be cocktails on tap.

Tom Collins would be proud.

You can find out more on the Gin Foundry website