The Gin Festival came about in 2012 when husband and wife, Jym and Marie, after attending every gin tasting session around and visiting multiple gin bars felt like something was seriously missing. Like a lot of us they wanted more, and they wanted to be those individuals to bring more to the world of gin. They wanted to do something different and that’s just what they done, the Gin Festival came to life. The idea behind this wonderful creation was to bring more interesting, exciting gins, and the perfect garnishes to go along with these, as well as educating gin lovers all over. With gins from all around the world, I was excited when I was invited to attend this well talked about event and try this amazing drink in many different forms and flavours for myself.
On Saturday night David and I headed to The Briggait, a beautiful building which has been converted into a space for artists and cultural organisations. We met the lovely event assistant Laura who talked us through the festival and handed us our press passes, a little gin book and most importantly our gin glasses. We collected our tokens from the off licence, which sold bottles of all the wonderful gins they had to offer that night, incase the few glasses weren’t enough and you wanted your very own bottle to accompany you home for cracking open on a special occasion. We stood reading The Gin Book, which was packed with tonnes of information, even recipes on how to make your own Gin and Tonic tart or some gin cocktails, but most importantly it allowed us to check out all the gins they had available that night and narrow down our options when deciding which ones to try.
Before I get down to the nitty gritty, I have to point out the fact they had a selfie pod, which meant you could take a little momentum home with you to remember the night (which for anyone who may have overindulged in the gin is a good idea) – I did suggest to David that we take a before and after picture for a laugh but we only managed the before picture and after that the selfie pod got very popular. This was a great added touch and makes it more than just a gin tasting session, adding to the concept of it being a festival.
The layout of the event was that there were four bars: Bar A, B, C and D, which were hosts to international gins, British gins, sloe gins and so on. In addition to unlimited bottles of Indian tonic at each bar, there was a whole bar dedicated to Fever Tree tonics where you would go and add the recommended tonic to your gin. Our strategy (yes we had a strategy) was to try a gin from each of the four bars so 4 gins each, but also try a sip of one another’s so we weren’t missing out. So let’s start with Bar A, which was the home of the British gins. I went for a gin named Pinkster (ABV 37.5%), from Cambridge. This was actually one I had heard many good things about when doing some research before the festival, so I couldn’t quite possibly attend this event and not try it. Pinkster is a raspberry flavoured gin, with a smooth finish and is also gluten free. Its garnish was mint and raspberry and I had it with the recommended Indian tonic. I had high expectations for this gin, heading to the venue with the name stuck in my head and even saved in my notes so I wouldn’t forget it, and expectation wise, it lived up to them – I loved the raspberry twist. David went for the Blackwoods Vintage Dry Go (ABV 60%) which was the STRONGEST gin at the festival, trust him to go for that one. This one is distilled in Shetland and is full of citrus flavours with a garnish of mint and lime, and a mixer of aromatic tonic. From what I tried I really liked this one, and despite its alcohol volume being a whopping 60% it was actually really smooth.
Next up was Bar B, again home to some wonderful British gins. I went for the Sir Robin of Locksley (ABV 40.5%), and asides from its very cool name, the flavours of this gin attracted me to it, with its pink grapefruit taste and citrus finish. It had a pink grapefruit garnish, and was accompanied by either mediterranean or elderflower tonic, I opted for the elderflower tonic. Out of all the gins I tried that night this was my favourite by a mile, it was so refreshing and I liked the contrast between the grapefruit and citrus flavours. David chose the Hoxton Gin (ABV 43%), which had many different flavours occurring: fruity with a hint of ginger, juniper, tarragon and even coconut and grapefruit. This is what you would call a ‘taste of the tropics’. It was garnished with pink grapefruit and accompanied by ginger ale. Bar A and B had a great selection of British gins to try, which we took full advantage of so I don’t know how we even made it to Bar C and D.
Bar C and D were up next with Bar C playing playing host to the international gins, offering gin from the likes of sunny Spain to France and Bar D offering fruit, flavoured and sloe gins. If I’m being honest I can’t remember the names of the gins we tried at this bar, all I can remember is the ingredients of them that the lovely man behind the bar explained to us, which ended up being the reasons we chose the gins we did. David went for a citrus flavoured gin, and I went for a berry flavoured gin, with an after taste of parma violets. The parma violet finish completely won me over – I’m still trying to work out the name of this gin, but for now it’s the one that got away.
Last but not least is Bar D and unlike the previous bar, I can actually remember our final choices of the night. I chose Sikkim Fraise (ABV 40%) which is distilled in Spain. This was made up of a lovely pine flavour combined with strawberries and cranberries, with my favourite part being its summer berries flavour. It was garnished with mint, alongside Indian tonic and went down a treat. If you’ve read up to this point you’ll have noticed my liking for fruity flavours. David went for 5th – Fire (ABV 42%), which is distilled in Barcelona, Spain. This had a whole range of red fruits going on in the flavours, from blackberries, to blueberries and strawberries. Its garnish not so surprisingly was a strawberry and was accompanied by lemon tonic. This was another one of my top favourites of the night, and something I can imagine having a cold glass of on holiday or on a hot Summers night in Scotland (not that we get many).
I feel like I’ve just gave an educational lecture on gin when before this event I knew the minimalist of details about the drink, but that’s what I loved about the festival – it had this educational aspect to it. I learned so much about the drink and it was great to see the enthusiasm of all the individuals behind the bar – the knowledge they shared with me, I’ll be sure to share with others. I feel like I entered the festival absolutely clueless to all these exquisite gins and left the festival a gin connoisseur.
Now, tickets are required for this in demand event, costing £10.46. What does this include? Well, the price for this ticket includes your very own Gin Festival Copa Balloon Glass, which you will be given on arrival as well as the Gin book that enlightens you to all the gins available at the festival that day. Here comes the better part… the gin drinking stage. The bars operate on a token system, so from the token stand you can purchase a token or multiple tokens, however many you wish, which will cost you £5 each. One token pays for a single measure of gin, garnish and a Fever-Tree mixer of your choice, whilst two tokens pays for a Gin inspired cocktail. By the bottle these gins can be so expensive so to get the gin, mixer and garnish all for £5 is great.
Although the evening is dedicated to gin, there is a stand selling street food to keep you going with all that gin tasting you’ll be doing. In addition there is live music too, so factors like food and music only further add to the festival concept. I had a really fantastic night, it may have been my first ever Gin Festival but it won’t be my last. This is a great day out for gin lovers, and even if you’re not prone to drinking gin this could change your tastebuds and sure become your new favourite alcoholic beverage. If you think this is your type of event or you want to find out more information then you can check out their website or Twitter.