South Australian Stuart Mackenzie has raised his glass to a new career, swapping Hollywood blockbusters for distilling his own organic gin.
The economic fallout from COVID-19 may have put the brakes on Stuart’s visual effects business, but it opened the door for ‘Little Juniper’ to become a reality.
In 2020, Stuart fast-tracked his five-year plan for the label, and in just nine months built a distillery and mastered the art of distilling.
He is dedicated to creating traditional-style gin with a very modern and botanical twist, by blending the latest distilling innovations with age-old elements.
“I use a rotary evaporator to extract and test the most delicate flavours, which makes our distillery look like a science lab,” he said.
“I spent months refining my palate to taste and understand more than 90 organic botanicals and how they interacted before we distilled our final recipe using a traditional copper still.”
This creative approach culminated into a traditional, dry London-style gin, with hints of more than 20 botanicals, with the first batch of Little Juniper Signature Gin released on 23 December 2020.
Little Juniper doesn’t only taste good, it also ticks important sustainability boxes.
Ever since becoming a father to Tom (now 13) and Lola (10), Stuart has thought deeply about his responsibility to the earth and what the next generation will inherit.
He considers Little Juniper as an opportunity to educate people about the impact of their drink choices and for him, it was essential that his product had a positive impact on the environment.
“The ‘little’ in Little Juniper is referring to the footprint our business has on the earth,” he said.
“There is a lot of waste in the process of distilling and a lot of pesticides can go into the ingredients that make gin.
“We have significantly reduced wastewater by creating a closed circuit for most of the water used in the distilling process. The water that can’t be reused in the gin process goes onto our garden that grows some of our botanicals and herbs.”
Organic certification is a vital ingredient for Stuart – not only does it provide his customers with the guarantee Little Juniper products are made to the highest standards, but it also gives him peace of mind that his organic certified suppliers are also bound by these same high standards.
“I am very fussy about what goes into our gin and I think people should be fussy about what they consume,” Stuart said.
“Using organic products gives me an assurance I know how those ingredients have been produced.
“To us, the ‘Bud’ is a badge of honour – displaying it on our gin gives our consumers the confidence our gin has been made to the highest standard using the ingredients that have literally not cost the earth, in environmental terms, to produce.”
Thanks to his background in creative media, Stuart knew the packaging was just as important as the contents of the bottle.
“All our packaging has been produced as sustainably as possible, down to the cork stopper produced in Portugal and processed in France,” he said.
These thoughtful choices – from the best equipment to the carefully-selected packaging – didn’t come without challenges.
Global disruptions delayed the release of the gin, but Stuart is pragmatic about the realities of operating against the backdrop of a global pandemic.
With the logistical and production elements of the business now flowing smoothly, Stuart has turned his attention to ramping up the marketing of Little Juniper.
The label’s sophisticated website and bright visuals are a nod to the gin maker’s background in creative media.
Currently, Little Juniper’s Signature Gin can be purchased directly from his website, but Stuart has plans to open a cellar door in the next six to 12 months.
“We are also working on stocking our gin at independent bottle shops in South Australia and on creating a new Navy strength organic gin – so watch this space.”
Learn more about Little Juniper and try some for yourself at www.littlejuniper.com.au