The humble juniper berry, one of the primary ingredients in gin, has been in decline in recent decades in the UK mainly due to modern farming practices and climate change. Now a craft gin maker behind Hepple Gin is aiming to reverse that with an ambitious juniper restoration project.
The Northumberland-based Hepple Spirits Co. have been involved in the juniper restoration and propagation efforts spearheaded in the UK by the National Parks. Nestled on the edge of North Northumberland’s remote and untouched National Park, the team at Moorland Spirit Co. have been cultivating the naturally growing green juniper from the estate’s native juniper seed.
Every year Hepple Spirits Co. plant hundreds of seedlings to support the resurgence of the local juniper population. The juniper restoration project aims to plant out at least 200 of juniper seedlings each year.
On the Hepple Spirits Co. estate wild juniper has been growing for over 400 years and the distillery handpick the young green berries unique to Hepple Gin, along with the Douglas Fir from the surrounding woodland and the lovage and blackcurrant from the Hepple garden. Hepple Gin is crafted using locally handpicked green juniper from the Hepple estate and produced using both traditional and modern production methods.
The Hepple Estate, which sits in the Northumberland National Park – a quiet place untouched by modern farming and mass tourism, is also home to a Special Conservation Area which is a sanctuary for wildlife including curlews, red squirrels, ringed ouzels, lapwings, hen harriers and peregrine falcons.
Husband-and-wife team Walter and Lucy Riddell launched the juniper restoration project four years ago. More than 2,000 new trees have been planted since, helping to provide habitats for local wildlife and to protect the biodiversity of the land.
In an interview with Luxe Magazine, Hepple Spirits Co. co-founder, Walter Riddell said: “Not only does it [the juniper restoration project] allow us to give back to the land and secure the future of our juniper trees, it means we can carry on capturing ingredients fully and faithfully, so they taste as alive in the bottle as they are on the land.
“For us, it’s a way of honouring these gorgeous wild plants, but it’s also a statement of intent. It says, we’re committed and we’re here for the long-term.”
Image Credits: Hepple Spirits Co.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com