I was super excited when an email popped into my inbox inviting me to attend the Gin Festival in Manchester and naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. I am a true gin lover. A connoisseur if you will, ok maybe not quite at that level, but you get the picture, gin is a staple in my diet!
The Gin Festival tours all around the UK bringing gin lovers together over an impressive selection of gins from every corner of the world. This year’s Manchester Gin Festival was held in the fabulous, Victoria Baths, which was the perfect location to explore with glass a of G&T in hand.
The festival was laid out over several rooms, with the gins split up across various bars from A to E, a free taster room, masterclasses, street food, a tuck shop and a shop where you can buy full bottles of the good stuff to take home.
Upon arrival you are greeted by the team, given a gin guide and a wristband. The event is cashless and you can either pre top up your band before the event, or easily pay using cash or card to top up your band on arrival. We attended the Saturday evening session (you get a slot to attend, ours was 6:30 to 11pm) and at no point did I have to queue to top my band up.
You also get handed a gin festival glass, which is yours to take home at the end of the night. Slight side note here, one of our glasses broke and when we asked for a replacement, we were quickly shot down and told the hundreds of glasses laid out were for tomorrows event. Not good when you need the glass to be able to buy gin. This unfortunately cut our night short, and was a bit of a disappointment really. Not sure if we just chose the wrong person to ask, or if this is actually a thing, but yeah, treat your glass like gold dust if you want to keep drinking! Luckily the glass breakage happened towards the end of the night, but still, I had time for 1 more.
The gin guide you are provided with, details which gins are found at which bar, which tonic to pair them with (Schweppes were there with an awesome selection of mixer options from your typical tonic water to ginger beer) and a bit more about the gins on offer. I’ll admit, when you first walk in and see the number of gins on offer, it’s a bit overwhelming!
We took ourselves off to a corner and studied our guide and settled on our first gin. I wanted to go for the violet gin (Zymurgorium Sweet Violet, a Manchester gin), but it had sold out already (I have read in other reviews that this had happened at other events, so I think you need to get in quick for this, or maybe Gin Festival should just boost the stock of this one for next time?!)
We then worked our way around the many bars, trying MANY different gins, although only 8 were full drinks (4 each), just fyi. We had a food stop half way through, although the food on offer was very limited, your choice was hog roast baps or Chinese bao. We tried both and the Chinese bao from Dim Sum Sue was really nice but quite expensive for the small portions and the hog roast was just a huge let down. I’ve never said this before but the meat was way too moist, it just soaked through the bread and made it not that great to eat. If I am honest, if I went again, I’d say eat before, the food offerings are a bit disappointing., but the gin more than makes up for it (just prepared and eat before!).
So, lets talk about the gin (don’t judge me on how many I tried, some were sample size and some were Chris’ choice, I just tried them for research purposes)…
Gin 1 – Aduro Pink Passion
So, on the bar tenders recommendation (they know their stuff so it’s worth asking!) I started my evening with Aduro Pink Passion Gin, with the classic Schweppes 1783 tonic. This is an Italian gin which is described as being intensely fruity and suitable for those with a sweet tooth. It is suggested to be served with a garnish of raspberry, mint and orange. It was deliciously fruity and was a great start to the evening.
Gin 2 – Kokoro
This was a Japanese inspired gin called Kokoro which uses sansho berries to create a strong flavour of citrus, pine and pepper. This was served with a slice of pink grapefruit and was beautifully smooth to drink. It is best accompanied by the 1783 light tonic.
Gin 3 – Elephant Gin
I am a huge animal lover, and as soon as I read about this gin, I knew I had to give it a go. 15% of the proceeds from this gin goes to supporting African elephant charities. Not only is this gin fabulous for elephants, it also tastes pretty damn awesome. It is a beautifully smooth gin that would please even the most complex of palettes. It is suggested to be served with apple and ginger and the 1783 floral tonic water. This was a real winner.
Gin 4 – Poetic Licence Old Tom Gin
This wasn’t really to my taste as was more of a spicy, strong flavoured gin, and I prefer smoother, subtler flavours. However, if this is your preference, then this could be right up your street. Chris really enjoyed this one as he prefers the stronger flavoured gins, and when garnished with apple and topped off with ginger ale, this is a winner for those who prefer a warming kick to their tipple.
Gin 5 – Sharish Blue Magic Gin
I was won over by the colour changing magic of this gin, although the flavour really wasn’t to my taste, at all. I found it a bit too sweet and there was a flavour in it that I couldn’t quite pin point, that really didn’t sit well with me. However, the cool colour change when you add the tonic, from blue to pink, is worth it in itself. This one just wasn’t for me unfortunately.
Gin 6 – Orkney Rhubarb Old Tom Gin
Ooooo now this one was delicious. Rhubarb gin is just always a winner but this one was especially good. Plus, the bottle for this one is awesome. Its like a retro, fliplid bottle that you imagine ale was served in 100s of years ago. The rhubarb is complemented perfectly bye the cinnamon and orange flavours that combine to form a beautiful gin, garnished with fresh ginger and then topped off with ginger beer and this is just perfection.
Gin 7 – Kuro London Dry Gin
We attended a masterclass from the guys at Kuro and learnt all about this gin that was inspired by the Japanese alps and includes ingredients such as bamboo and silver birch. This is a strong, flavourful gin that has been made with the intention of it being served Japanese style, in a smooth sided, rectangular glass with a large block of ice and nothing else. It has quite the kick when drunk straight but the flavours completely coat your mouth and continue for a time after, so you really get to appreciate and taste the different ingredients that make up this gin. This is a new one on the scene and one that is sure to become a top seller in the future, not least because of the gorgeous straight edged black bottle it is served in.
Gin 8 – Far Reaches Gin
I was sold on the description of this one, being a travel blogger and all. This gin was apparently inspired by travels all around the globe with botanicals chosen from 5 different continents. The idea sounded great, the product was just too plain for me. I felt like this was a beginners gin, one for the more delicate of pallets. It just didn’t do it for me, which is a shame as I loved the concept. This is to be served with kumquat and raspberry, which made the gin look interesting to the onlooker, just a shame the taste didn’t follow suit.
Gin 9 – PJ Gin
This is one for those of you who like your fruit flavoured gin. Their elderflower offering is delicious but I found the raspberry and apple offerings way too sweet for my tastes. They are a Belgium company and will definitely go far with those with a sweet tooth.
Gin 10 – Uncle Vals
I was a huge fan of this gin, and the two people on this stall were so engaging and excited by this product, it made you love it even more. This gin was pretty unique in flavour, it was like no other gin I had tried before, and in a good way. It is actually an American gin inspired by Uncle Val and his Tuscan garden. It is a beautifully herby gin and the mixtures of cucumber, lemon, lavender and sage blends perfectly to create a deliciously smooth flavour. Big fan of this one.
In addition, they also sell the botanicals in drop form, so you can add a particular flavour to any drink of your choosing, depending on what flavour you have a thing for!
The best thing these guys offered though, was the colour changing drops! Yes, you can, with a drop of this magic potion, dazzle your guests as their drinks change from a deep blue to a light pink right before their eyes. Yes, I bought a bottle of this stuff.
Gin 11 – Slingsby Gin
We tried three different gins from these guys and fell instantly in love. I am seriously going to be stocking up on this stuff. Their rhubarb gin is delicious, I could drink it straight up (although you’re not supposed to!), the dry gin is beautifully smooth and the navy strength gin, although strong, is not too overpowering. I would happily drink all three of these gins and what makes them even better is that they are all made up the road in Harrogate and the ingredients they use are all local too!
Gin 12 – Blackwoods 60% Vintage Dry Gin
And last but not least, this super strength gin. I managed a sip of this, I couldn’t manage any more however, Chris, who is a bit more hardy than me when it comes to alcohol, loved this and I will admit that although it is strong in volume, the flavour is not overpowering and when mixed with the suggested mint and lime garnish and topped off with the 1783 floral tonic water, this is actually a very nice drink, just probably not one to end a night of gin tasting with!!
So there you have it, a run down of the fabulous gins I tried at the Gin Festival and after all that, I barely even scratched the surface of the gins that were on offer. Looks like I’ll just have to go back and try some more!
If you are a gin lover and fancy tasting some fabulous gins, there are still tickets available for next weekend in Manchester and plenty of other locations across the UK. You can check out details over on the Gin Festival Website.
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***I was gifted free tickets to the event, which included 2 free drinks, but the rest were bought with my own, hard earned money. As always, all opinions are 100% truthful, even after the 12th gin…