In a recent interview with The Gin Guide I was asked what my top tip was for people just starting to discover gin. My answer? Get yourself to a gin festival; quite probably the most fun and relaxing way to learn about gin and discover what you like, love and occasionally even loathe! There are, thankfully, plenty of festivals taking place up and down the country nowadays, and each one tends to have a slightly different set-up, but one of the newest and most exciting has got to be The Catford Gin Festival in south east London.
Brought to you by Forest Hill Gin Club and Team Catford, and sponsored by Fever-Tree, The Catford Gin Festival promises a fantastic line-up for your delectation. With about fifteen gin distilleries on board, this isn’t quite going to rival the likes of Junipalooza or Gin Festival, but who really needs much more than that? Especially when the gins they are showcasing are so good?
The line-up’s more familiar names, to me at least, include Dorset’s floral Pothecary Gin, Scotland’s Colonsay Gin, and Graveney and Old Bakery gins both from London. While all good gins, and well worth trying, I am, naturally, most excited about the gins I haven’t tried before, of which there are a pleasing number. Also locally produced, Mean London Dry Gin will be on site, in addition to Turncoat Gin made in Liverpool, Sweden’s Ragnarök Gin featuring fresh lingonberries and Skully Gin with their intriguing Tangerine Twist and Smooth Wasabi gins. And then there’s a brand new release for good measure too; Mary Rose Gin, a London Dry with notes of rosemary and grapefruit.
Arguably one of the highlights, and certainly the newest release, promises to be Tom Cat Six Gin; an Old Tom-style gin distilled in association with Foxdenton Estates exclusively for the Catford Gin Festival. Old Tom is a style of gin popular in 18th-century England and slightly sweeter than the classic London Dry (but drier than the Dutch Jenever). The style was no doubt chosen partly in keeping with the cat theme of the host district, the postcode of which (SE6) also influenced the decision to limit the number of botanicals to six. The six botanicals featured are juniper, orris, coriander seed, angelica, cardamom and, unexpectedly and intriguingly, scotch bonnet chilli peppers!
I was very fortunate to receive a small sample of Tom Cat Six prior to its launch at the Catford Gin Festival and it is certainly worth seeking out. The chilli is not as prominent to taste as I might have expected, and indeed liked, but it does add a gentle heat to the peppery finish. Traditionalists though will, no doubt, be pleased (and relieved) to hear that the chilli is not just a gimmick and that the gin also retains a strong juniper core. It is undoubtedly a clean and smooth gin of good quality and, while some may prefer a more robust flavour profile, this lighter gin will almost certainly prove to be more of a crowd pleaser.
I tried Tom Cat Six in a gin and tonic with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water and, initially, an orange and cardamom garnish. It made for a very enjoyable G&T but the orange proved slightly overpoweringly sweet and didn’t really enhance the flavours of the gin. I swapped the citrus for a little ginger, which did seem to open up the gin more and complement it better. I’m also told that red pepper makes an excellent garnish but, personally, I’d be keen to try it with a chilli garnish. I suspect the gin will prove to be highly versatile and would probably also work well in a number of cocktails, although the one that springs to mind is definitely the Red Snapper (a gin-based version of the Bloody Mary).
In addition to all that, Catford Gin Festival will also host OriGINal Fizz, a dinky tuk-tuk van serving cocktails made with prosecco and gin liqueurs from Foxdenton Estates. And, in case all that gin goes to your head, there will also be sumptuous Caribbean food from Jerk Off BBQ and Indian street food from Raastawala. However, I expect the queues will be longest for bakery Borough 22 and their vegan and gluten-free gin doughnuts. Yes, you heard right. GIN DOUGHNUTS! With gin on the side. What more could you ask for?
The Catford Gin Festival takes place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th of October 2017 at Catford Shopping Centre, Winslade Way SE6 4RU. Entry costs £15 and includes a beautiful Catford Gin Festival copa de balon glass, three tokens to be exchanged for your choice of gin tasters, and one token to try Tom Cat Six Gin. Further tokens will be available to purchase throughout the day. Tickets are available from Eventbrite.
With thanks to Charlotte Rose of Forest Hill Gin Club for the complimentary sample of Tom Cat Six Gin.