Another year has flown by and what a year it was! Both for gin as a whole and also for my more personal gin pursuits. It has, on the whole, been an outstanding year for the industry with sales reaching an all-time high and gin being declared the most popular spirit in the UK. But, with the highs of sales in excess of 47m bottles of gin, came the inevitable lows as people looked to sell out and cash in. The wonderful gin community rallied though and, desperate to protect our sacred spirit, the #StopFuckingWithGin hashtag was born! While The Pool asked if the gin joke had gone too far, and Gin Monkey – rightly – reminded us to use the hashtag with due respect, there were plenty of offenders who deserved little sympathy – such as gin and tonic tea bags, crisps and, quite possibly the worst of them all, G&T fun buns!
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.
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.