The Guildford Gin Festival

September 30, 2016

Yes I know it’s a hard life! Although truth be told we really wanted to go to the Gin Festival. Devised by Jym and Marie Harris, it enables visitors to try a plethora of gins with expert advice on tap. The Gin Festival has seen enormous growth since its 2012 inception, growing from a single event to reaching thousands of gin enthusiasts all over the country.

Having held its first event in Guildford last year, we were thrilled to discover the Gin Festival was returning. Taking place in a purpose-built marquee at Guildford Cathedral, it was conveniently located so close we could have walked! A couple of friends were able to join us too having arrived in enough time to get tickets on the door. Tickets to the Gin Festival events sell out really fast so you have to be quick! There were evening sessions on in Guildford from last Thursday to Sunday although we opted for the Saturday afternoon session. A massive thank you to the POD Father’s parents for being around to look after not just POD but our friends’ two children as well!

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On arrival at the Gin Festival, each of us was given an official Gin Festival glass, a lanyard (handy place to keep our drink tokens safe), and a session badge. Tokens costs £5 each which entitled you to 4 drinks at any of the four gin bars. We also received The Gin Book which is an 80 page guide listing which gins are available from which bar. There’s a description for each along with the most appropriate garnish and which mixer that gin is best paired with. This essential book also shows you how to make the perfect G&T, provides tasting notes on partner Fever-Tree’s range and gives you a bit of history on gin too. The book is brilliant as you can appear knowledgable even if you’re kind of winging it. Equally if you’re an expert, there’s plenty to keep you occupied too. With so many gins on offer, no-one will have tried all of them although I’m sure some might give it a go! Having found a great spot outside, we kicked off our taste extravaganza with a Zymurgorium Mulberry. Even without a mixer, it was an easy to drink gin that provided us with bursts of plum, blackberry and raspberry.

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The set up in the marquee was great. Once we’d decided which gin we wanted from The Gin Book, it was easy to find and order what you wanted from one of the gin bars with very little waiting involved. The process was really straight forward too – you just took your Gin Festival Glass (empty of course!) to the right gin station and showed your token.

Each drink was garnished as indicated in the book with staff advising if it was a gin that could be drunk with or without a mixer. The Fever-Tree tonic and mixer range was readily available so you could add to your drink as you would do normally. There was a relaxed atmosphere both inside the marquee and out so it was easy to just go with the flow. With over 100 gins on offer, there was something for everyone from those new to gin through to the more experienced gin connoisseurs.

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As well as the gin bars, there was a Cocktail Bar serving some incredible sounding drinks for 2 tokens each. From a Drunken Tulip with gin, prosecco and pomegranate to a Rhubarb Rumble with a Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur and the classic Singapore Sling. There were plenty of distilleries to chat to as well with the likes of Pinkster, Sir Robin of Locksley, Poetic License and Brockmans all running masterclasses. We didn’t make it to one of these as we were busy sampling the amazing gins on offer but they seemed very popular.

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Gin Explorer were on hand to answer questions about their exciting gin subscription service. Brought to you by the Gin Festival experts, it offers gin enthusiasts with the opportunity to discover, taste and learn about new, rare and unusual gins. Each month you can receive information around the heritage and origin of a selection of gins with surprise mixes and gin based treats included too. It’s all about getting those hand-selected gins delivered to the doorstep and beginning what sounds like an incredible gin journey!

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I wish I’d noted what they were called but there was an excellent band at the Gin Festival in addition to the ongoing entertainment. Great singing, guitar and violin talent which generated a superb vibe. The band were full of energy which in turn kept everyone’s spirits high – not that they weren’t already! I stopped to watch them for a time after getting a drink, also keeping an eye on those pulling the funniest of faces at the Gin Selfie booth! The band were on for a while though so it was great to listen to them from outside as well as in while eagerly tucked into our nachos!

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You’re probably wondering what else we drank while we were at the Gin Festival. My stand out favourite was definitely Pinkster which is a quirky gin produced with fresh raspberries. We’d never had it before and it was just divine – dry but very smooth. I’m kicking myself we didn’t leave the Gin Festival with a bottle of it. The chaps did manage to purchase a bottle of Sir Robin of Locksley however. It’s a blend of traditional botanicals with infusions of elderflower, dandelion and pink grapefruit. It’s delicious with Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water but just as good sipped just as it comes.

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Other gins we sampled included Brockmans which can be served with ice or Fever-Tree Ginger Ale. Infused with botanicals like wild dried blueberries and blackberries, its a smooth distinct gin that can be garnished with pink grapefruit and blueberries. A very pleasant taste although we might have slipped slightly with the ginger ale. Sipsmith V.J.O.P. with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic provided us an authentic twist on a G&T with nearly 60% proof. A triple juniper technique is used to create a gin bursting with classic gin notes.

The girls and boys were divided on Tinto which is served with a lemon and green cardamom and the Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic. It’s herbaceous and fruity but also sweet and sour with the pear, dill and lime. West Winds ‘The Cutlass’ was the POD Father’s absolute favourite and unlike anything he’d tasted before – he loved that the smell translated to the ‘peppery’ taste. It combines traditional juniper with Australian elements such as cinnamon, lemon myrtle and bush tomato. Garnished with a bell pepper, it’s best coupled with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic. We couldn’t get any of this to take home but it’s on our list of must haves along with the delicious Pinkster.

The ‘Off Licence’ at the Gin Festival was excellent. As well as being able to purchase bottles of gin, there was branded merchandise and a whole host of gin related gifts and memorabilia. The branding at the Gin Festival is wonderful with even the area outside showcasing things like a classic Gordons bottle, some old scales and a ‘Gin Bike’. Together everything worked so well making for a truly brilliant afternoon. I think it’s fair to say we’ve officially joined the Gin Revolution!

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The Gin Festival is the original, biggest and best gin festival in the UK. For all the latest event news visit the Gin Festival website where you can also discover more about Gin Explorer and purchase gins from around the world. You can follow the Gin Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or if you’d like a taste of what it’s like, check out this little film from the Leeds Gin Festival.

Disclaimer: We received a pair of Gin Festival tickets and a drinks voucher for the purpose of this review. Opinions are as always our own. 

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