Frequently Asked Questions

Q & A with Ric & Dave

Desert Juniper Gin is hand-crafted in Bend, Oregon, USA. Crafted with local, hand-picked wild Western Juniper berries, we use mountain spring water that has traveled through lava in Central Oregon’s landscape, select Northwest botanicals, and natural grain spirits.

Taking a cue from nature, Desert Juniper Gin is filtered through indigenous crushed lava rock. Our careful process results in a gin with depth and subtlety, like no other gin in the world. Freshly poured Desert Juniper Gin yields a fragrant bouquet, with the smooth taste of juniper delicately blooming on the palette, and a clean finish. So what do the guys at the helm of making the Gin think …

Ric DeMarco - Dave Hodgert - Desert Juniper Gin

What was the inspiration behind creating Desert Juniper Gin and when was it launched?
Ric: Our inspiration was twofold: our personal desire to create an authentic, enjoyable, gin that is smooth and pleasing; and our interest in manifesting the richness of our high desert environment. In 1997, we began by researching gin history and production, and we experimented with the abundant local ingredients in Central Oregon. Our goal was to create a natural, historically based gin. We released the first bottle in late 1998

What is your relationship with Bendistillery? Is Desert Juniper Gin one of their products?
Ric: Bendistillery was one of the first craft distilleries in the United States, on the leading edge the explosion of craft distilling. Desert Juniper Gin is contract-distilled at Bendistillery. We enjoy a friendly, productive relationship with them and have worked with Jim Bendis since our beginning, but we are separate entities. Our products are distinct and unique.
Dave: Desert Juniper Gin proudly owns the recipe and creative process for making our gin. We manage our product and are very involved with what fills each bottle. Contracting with Bendistillery’s well-run facility allows us to keep up with demand, while keeping the batches small and hand-crafted.

Do you have a background in distilling?
Ric: Over a decade with Desert Juniper Gin; but we’re from really different backgrounds, neither of us came from the food and beverage industry. We come from a perspective of appreciating finely crafted products. We’ve been great friends for most of our lives, and we’ve always been creative people who like to socialize. Our skills complement each other. We have similar outlooks toward business and life in general.
Dave: We’re entrepreneurial guys, and established several unique businesses before turning our interests toward microdistilling. Our website’s “About Us” page goes into more depth on who we are and how Desert Juniper Gin came to be. For the most part I just like hanging with Ric and the Gin makes it possible.
Ric: You mean after a Martini it’s possible to hang with me?
Dave:After 2 Martini’s is what I meant to say…

Were you trying to create a specific flavor profile during development?
Ric: Absolutely. We sought authentic flavor, without perfumes and chemicals. We wanted to enjoy the distinct, pure flavor of Western Juniper berries. Our passion was to create the perfect martini gin, and Desert Juniper Gin is precisely that. The botanicals were carefully chosen to delicately enhance the finish.
Dave:Since Desert Juniper Gin was first created I have moved to the Willamette Valley, the sensory experience in each bottle is the Central Oregon outdoors. The smell of the clean fresh High Desert air is brought to my mind every time I open a bottle. My friends who have also moved away from the Oregon High Desert always tell me they can smell home when a bottle is opened. That is the feeling we want you to have when you open a bottle. Clean, Fresh, open air thoughts of purity.

How long did it take to create Desert Juniper Gin (from concept to first bottle) and were there any particular highlights?
Ric: Concept to first bottle took over a year. Our process began by understanding what we did not want our gin to taste like. As for highlights, we truly enjoyed the creative experimentation. Good friendships made the process a great experience, while we tested & sampled each batch until it was exactly what we were looking for — fresh, crisp, and clean. Bottling was a memorable point on the learning curve. We appreciate hand crafted products, so we hired a sand blasting company to etch each bottle. The feel of the finished bottle was really unique and embodied our desire to make something special. However, we soon discovered sand blasting weakened the glass and caused it to easily fracture.
Dave: The shipping trucks all smelled like Desert Juniper Gin when they arrived at the distributors! We switched to a classically styled frosted glass bottle.

Other than juniper, what botanicals do you use?
Dave: We live within one of the world’s largest Juniper tree forests – juniper trees pepper more than 6.5 million acres of Oregon land, and we teach about this forest on our website. We believe the very essence of gin is juniper, not perfumes, extracts or boutique herbs. The Western Juniper tree produces a unique, heavy berry, unlike scrub junipers or juniper bushes.
Ric: As with many great “family recipes”, we like to keep our special mix of Northwest botanicals within our gin production family. Our botanical mix has been carefully balanced, and again, our intent with the botanicals was to only support the natural Western Juniper berry flavor.

What do you think is the key difference between Desert Juniper Gin and other American gins?
Dave:Desert Juniper Gin was specifically created to meet the renaissance of gin. Back in 1997, we created this Hand-Crafted American Gin based on tradition, with the vision that gin enthusiasts desired real, traditional flavors. We have stuck to that vision.
Ric: We don’t compare Desert Juniper Gin to these other gins because we don’t think it is appropriate. We have tasted a few of the new gins, as well as many of the long-established brands. Tasting continues to reinforce our belief that Desert Juniper Gin is “What Real Gin Tastes Like.™”
Dave: Well I compare, but not Ric … He doesn’t really like the gins he tastes because of the medicinal and solvent flavors.
Ric: I do like Gin, I don’t like the smell or taste of pine-sol.
Dave: You’ve tasted pine-sol?
Ric: I’ve tasted bad gin … misspent youth.

How big is a batch of Desert Juniper Gin?
Dave: Our typical batch is 500 gallons. The new and now expanded distillery allows us to produce multiple batches in simultaneous set stages, so we can keep the hand-crafted quality but meet the growing demand.

Desert Juniper has a distinct tint – Where does the hue come from?
Ric: We hear that question a lot and love answering it. This is a hand-crafted product. The natural juices and oils of the juniper berries generate the unique color, and our process allows the color to remain in the gin. We decided early on that we would not strip the natural color from Desert Juniper Gin.
Dave: Some batches are more golden in hue, some less; however the flavor is consistent, while the color varies due to climate changes and specific location of the berries we’ve harvested. The golden hue is Desert Juniper Gin. It tells you that this is an authentic “Hand-Crafted American Gin.™”

Where is Desert Juniper Gin Sold?
Dave: Desert Juniper Gin is predominately available in the northwestern United States (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah), but also found in pockets of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, California, Massachusetts, and our distribution is growing.
Ric: Hopefully, someday Desert Juniper Gin will be available worldwide as we find distributors that embrace our vision of a traditional, natural gin focused on the distinctive flavor of Western Juniper berries. We are currently looking for a good fit with distributors in several different countries.

What is the plan for the brand going forward?
Dave: Our plan is to continue creating the best gin with high quality Pacific Northwestern ingredients. We will remain true to our commitment of a small batch, hand-crafted American gin, harvesting from the natural environment around us.
Ric: We have traditionally grown one bottle, one fan, at a time. It is remarkable to hear how far Desert Juniper Gin has traveled. Over the first decade, Desert Juniper Gin grew by simply being passed from one person to another, with personal accolades such as “I found this gin while I was in Oregon, it’s fantastic … you have to try it.” People who taste Desert Juniper Gin really love it and share it with their friends; our fans have been our biggest advocates in expanding the availability of Desert Juniper Gin. We have to thank them for being our advocates.

If it is not at your favorite store, let us know the location and we’ll work to get it there for you.