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 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 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.
A shed can be many things, from a small store for the lawnmower to a comfortable place of retreat, but few sheds contain gin distilleries. And even fewer distilleries are housed in an award-winning Shed of the Year. But that is from where Inshriach Gin hails; 2015’s Shed of the Year on the Inshriach Estate, deep in the Cairngorms National Park. Where better, then, to hold the London launch of the newest edition to the range, Inshriach Navy Strength 57%, than East London’s stunning Shed Village; itself a contender for Shed of the Year in 2016?
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.