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.
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.
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.