Did you know I’m a gin convert? Having mistakenly sampled a G&T as a child (I thought it was lemonade!), I didn’t try gin properly until two years ago. And you know what, the gin cocktail I had then was absolutely delicious. There are so many gin varieties available these days too, many of which paired with a complementary garnish and mixer. What’s more if you’re new to gin, or indeed a lifelong gin enthusiast, the Gin Festival is the ideal place to experiment.
Established in 2013, the Gin Festival tours in towns and cities all over the UK including Guildford in Surrey which is local to us. The festival is designed for people who want to find new gins and have a brilliant time. As well as all the gins, there are expert talks, great food and live entertainment on offer. We went for the first time last September and loved the set up so much, we were thrilled to venture back this year.
Tickets for each of the Gin Festivals need to be purchased in advance from the Gin Festival website. Included in the ticket price is a Gin Festival glass which we received on arrival. These are superb fishbowl-style glasses that we kept for the duration of our session and got to take home. The Gin Explorer book which comes with the glass is essential for discovering new gins. It provides a description for each of the many gins available, the garnish they come with, the Fever Tree tonic the gin is best paired with and which bar to get it from. This year there were a couple of Fever Tree tonic varieties on each of the bars and there was a Fever Tree table. This meant I could pair my first drink, which was Pinkster (I discovered I loved it at the Gin Festival last year) with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, rather than Indian. As well as the Gin Festival glass and book, we also received a Gin Festival bag just the right size for our Gin Explorer book so we could keep it with us throughout the session.
The biggest change at the Gin Festival this time around was how drinks were paid for. The tokens we used last year were replaced with a cashless system which worked well for us. All we had to do was go to a pay station and have our desired amount added to our wrist bands. Each of the bar staff had a handheld device so whenever we ordered a drink, they’d just swipe our wristband. It seemed much quicker than using tokens and there were no queues at the pay stations when we topped up either.
Having run out at home, my first drink at the Gin Festival this year had to be Pinkster. This British gin is made with raspberries and it’s deliciously dry with a sharp, clear juniper flavour. There’s a gently fruity flavour but it’s not too sharp or too sweet – that’s probably why it goes down so well! Paired with Fever Tree Indian Tonic (or Mediterranean which is the one I like), it’s garnished with mint and raspberries. Funnily enough the Doves did buy a bottle of Pinkster at the Gin Festival although it was quickly devoured by the boys when we were home. I’ll have to be quicker next time!
New favourites from this year’s Gin Festival included Blackwoods Vintage Dry Gin which is sharp, dry and smooth. Paired with mint, lime and Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic, it was the festival’s strongest gin 60%. Tinker Gin on the other hand is light and fruity with botanicals including liquorice and elderberries, complimented with orange and lemon. Pear is the garnish and it’s paired with Fever Tree Light Tonic. The husband enjoyed the Skully Smooth Wasabi which is made with ginger, mint, sweet orange and wasabi root. It comes with a ginger and mint garnish and is served with Fever Tree Ginger Ale.
PJ Raspberry was just one of the PJ range variants at the Gin Festival – the others being Apple, Dry and Elderflower. I was interested to discover how this gin would compared to Pinkster, which is also made with raspberries. Like Pinkster, it’s paired with mint, raspberries and Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic but it’s much fruitier and sweeter. The PJ Elderflower on the other hand was soft and smooth with a lively kick. It was paired with the Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and garnished with red bell pepper.
More unusual gins came in the shape of the Boe Violet Gin with its violet and lavender with hints of apple and blackcurrant. This was paired with Fever Tree Indian Tonic with blueberries the garnish. Finally came the Zymurgorium Manchester Marmalade Gin which gives an explosion of citrus and tangy flavours like tangerine, lime, lemon and Seville oranges. Not forgetting the Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla mix. The garnish is of course orange which is paired with Fever Tree Indian Tonic.
One of the things I really like about the Gin Festival is the atmosphere, it has such a nice vibe about it. We ended up taking exactly the same spot on the grass as we had the previous year. It was somewhere we could chill while soaking up the sunshine, listening to live music (the band were excellent) and mid way through the afternoon, grab a pizza. We’d study our Gin Explorer book and chat about different types of gin before heading back into the marquee to request another one. Next time we really must try the Premier Gin Bar and the Cocktail Bar. As well as tasting gins, you can also purchase them at the Gin Festival along with a whole host of gifts. Our favourite has to be the Boozy Berries which are quite something and the ideal accompaniment to a bottle of Pinkster.
Disclaimer: We received tickets to the Gin Festival and a few drinks for the purposes of this review. Opinions are as always our own.