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.
I have a bit of a soft spot for Pothecary Gin; it was the first gin I formally reviewed, it comes from Dorset where my husband and I married, and its signature colour is my favourite too. It’s also a damn fine gin with a fascinating story behind it; a winning combination in my opinion. So you can imagine my delight when Pothecary collaborated with another local business, who produce another one of my favourite vices, and then asked me to review it!
Most of us have done it; criticised a product, declared we could do better and dreamed of making it big. Few of us have the guts and wherewithal to give it a go, fewer still the talent to make it a success. But two friends from Dorset have done just that and set the gin world alight. In a true rags-to-riches tail, Lukasz Dwornik and Martin Jennings have, in little more than 18 months, gone from bemoaning the average gins on offer in their local pub to producing one of the most critically acclaimed British gins on the market.