It is testament to the enduring appeal of, and fascination with, whisky that Whisky Live has been running for 19 years and is now held in over 25 countries. And it’s a measure of the extent to which gin has shot to prominence in recent years that, on 29 and 30 March 2019, the first Gin Live London shared the bill with its well-heeled forebear. Both festivals were held in the stunning grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company; considered the second oldest military corps in the world and, today, a registered charity whose purpose is to attend to the “better defence of the realm” … [insert Brexit joke here]
We were promised bigger and better at Catford Gin Festival this year and it certainly did not disappoint! It’s a measure of how much Team Catford value this small but perfectly formed event in their efforts to drive regeneration that, in the space of a year, the festival has moved from 2017’s empty retail unit down the road, to the Art Deco grandeur of Catford’s Broadway Theatre. With the imposing venue came higher ticket prices but, with a brochure, copa de balon glass and tote bag for every attendee as well as free tasters of all the gins available, it still offered excellent value for money. Especially with such an impressive line-up!
Now celebrating its fifth year, Junipalooza London promised to be bigger and better in 2018 than ever before. And it did not disappoint! With over 70 distilleries, literally hundreds of gins, the inaugural newcomer tasting zone and four experiential rooms, Junipalooza was set to burst out of the confines of the beautiful ground floor of Tobacco Docks.
There appears to be no end to the long list of “International Days of This” and “World Days of That”, but they are certainly not all created equal. No one can argue with the aspirations of Random Acts of Kindness Day (17th February), while it’s relatively easy to understand the appeal of Hug Your Cat Day (4th June) or World Nutella Day (5th February). On the other hand, fewer (surely) will get too excited about World Toothache Day (9th February) or World Toilet Day (19th November). But World Gin Day? That’s the real deal! Sensibly scheduled for the second Saturday in June – to avoid any unwise school-night drinking – and now celebrating its tenth year, it couldn’t be in better, or more capable, hands than Emma Stokes AKA Gin Monkey.
If there has ever been a gin festival in a more incongruous location, I’m yet to hear of it. The newest addition to the festival scene opened its doors in Catford in south east London; a priority area for regeneration in the Borough of Lewisham. More unusually, those doors opened into an empty retail unit located in Catford Shopping Centre, which was purchased by the council in 2010 as a sign of commitment to the transformation of the local area. And things got stranger still when you made your way into the bar on the top floor, which opened out directly into the enormous shopping centre car park where the festival’s street food vendors had set up stall!
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.
Ever fancied being a gin judge? Me too. And on Thursday l was honoured (and flabbergasted) to find myself included in a very elite group of professionals judging Craft Distilling Expo‘s Gin of the Year competition at the beautiful Bombay Sapphire Distillery!
The Drifters knew what they were talking about when they wrote Up On The Roof. And Gin Mare clearly know everything is all right up top too, as they launched their second annual Med Rooftops event in London on 20 July 2017. This year’s stunning event took place at The Institute of Engineering and Technology on Savoy Place overlooking the Thames. In keeping with the gin’s Mediterranean theme – its botanicals feature olives from Spain, thyme from Turkey, rosemary from Greece and basil from Italy – the rooftop was bedecked with olive trees, fragrant herbs and, of course, plenty of gin!
Imbibe Live is Europe’s largest on-trade drinks exhibition, showcasing an intimidating number of beers, wines, ciders and spirits. Even with my gin googles firmly on, there were more distilleries present than I could shake an empty glass at. With so much to see and so little time, I opted to skip past some of the more familiar (at least to me) and well-established brands, such as Sipsmith and Southwestern Distillery, but also, regrettably, missed out a few of the newer kids on the block like One Gin. Nonetheless, I definitely still succeeded in trying more gins than is probably wise on a Monday afternoon!
Think of an Irish alcohol. Chances are Guinness is the first to spring to mind. Or perhaps whiskey, which some claim was invented by Irish Monks. Irish coffees and poitín probably get a mention before gin. But, trust me, you can expect that to change. The Emerald Isle is home to a number of outstanding gin distilleries these days and they are starting to get the recognition they most certainly deserve.