The world of gin is a fast-paced one and there are few places where that is more evident than at Junipalooza. Last year, I attended as a lucky competition winner and it was that experience that spurred me on to start this blog. This year, I was fortunate enough to be invited back as a “gin-sider”, so to speak. And I’m not the only one: last year Finlay and Eileen Geekie attended as members of the public; this year they were behind the stall of their very own, highly acclaimed, Colonsay Gin.
It’s not something I shout about (anymore) but I’m a bit of a runner. I used to be a lot of a runner – in 2015 I completed 15 races including The London Marathon – but things (and I!) have slowed down a bit since then. Last year I managed a half marathon but 2017 is looking very quiet on the running front. It was, in fact, one of my new year’s resolutions to get out running more regularly, and what better motivation than a gin run?!
One of the most anticipated openings this year has been that of The Distillery on Portobello Road, London, home to the gin of the very same name. I was blown away to receive an invitation to the opening night, and not just any invitation but a stunning box with ‘The Distillery’ emblazoned on top, containing a gilt invitation and empty bottle of Characterful Vodka to be filled up on-site on the night! And first impressions definitely lived up to expectation. The Distillery is located at the Ladbroke Grove end of Portobello Road, in an imposing building, proudly bearing the logo of Portobello Road Gin, and it promises an exceptional experience.
My father grew up in Acton but I’ve had no reason to return to his roots. Until now. At London’s Gin Festival I was lucky to meet Oscar Dodd, Brand Manager at Bimber Distillery, who invited me to visit their site in North Acton. After following the central line train tracks, which run incongruously though a peaceful cemetery, one descends into Park Royal Business Park; the largest in London occupying about 500 hectares. The park is home to McVitites and Heinz alongside a number of smaller industrial firms, as well as Amathus Drinks, Speciality Drinks and, of course, Bimber Distillery founded in August 2015.
As the public’s appetite for gin continues to grow, so do the number of events devoted to the tasting and consumption of the spirit. Junipalooza and Gin Festival (both in their third year) are two such events which are, quite frankly, a gin lover’s paradise. What they are not, however, are events to which to take your friends who do not share your juniper obsession. This is where The Epicurean may step in; an event which takes some of the best elements of both Junipalooza and Gin Festival but which celebrates a wide range of high-quality wine, beer, spirits and food.
Beer festivals have, seemingly, been around for ever with Oktoberfest, generally recognised as the world’s largest beer festival, originating way back in 1810. Nowadays there’s a festival to cater for all passions, from cheese to chicken wings, but as recently as 2012 there was no festival devoted to gin. Gin lovers, and husband and wife, Jym and Marie Harris decided to change all that and Gin Festival was born.
“Micro-Distillery”: the clue really is in the name but, nevertheless, I was surprised by quite how small Half Hitch‘s premises in Camden are. From the exterior one can enjoy tantalising glimpses of the distillery in action. Step inside and the first thing you are likely to notice is quite how small the distillery is; the room is barely large enough to swing the proverbial cat and is totally dominated by its beautiful copper still. What’s left of the room is taken up by the considerably smaller vacuum still, a tasting bar and a lot of gin! It just goes to show what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.
Many people would raise their eyebrows at the notion of drinking gin before midday, and many more would raise objections to drinking neat gin at 11am. But not the ginthusiasts who descended upon Wapping early this morning and formed a long snaking queue to gain entry to Junipalooza at Tobacco Docks. And if they needed an excuse they were conveniently given one in the guise of World Gin Day.