The UK’s biggest gin festival arrived at Castlegate, Newcastle, from June 9-11, welcoming the gin connoisseurs and fanatical novices to get together and celebrate Britain’s favourite spirit, as well as mingling with experts and enjoying live music and complementary nibbles.
Ran over four sessions – three in the evening and one in the afternoon – the festival gave the North East’s gin lovers a chance to taste their way through four specialist bars, stocked with over 100 of the best gins from around the globe.
We attended the Saturday afternoon session in search of new flavours and fun ways to drink our favourite tipple. Armed with a handful of tokens (replacing cash), a ‘Gin Book’ (more like a bible) to help navigate and inspire the tastebuds and our very own glass (more like a mini punchbowl), it was then simply a case of picking what we fancied – and finding it!
We, of course, couldn’t resist sampling some of the locally-produced gins, which included Poetic License Northern Dry Gin, Steam Punk Gin and Hepple Gin (both made in Northumberland) and The Lakes Gin, but also really enjoyed experimenting with new flavours from other corners of the UK and beyond.
Favourites on the day included Pinkster, a gluten-free creation made in Cambridge with raspberries and light spices for a dry, fruity taste, and two citrusy numbers for a refreshing kick.
La Vita E’Bella from Italy was an absolute pleasure, combining fresh lemons and Sicilian mandarins with orange, elderflower and 20 other zingy botanicals. Eccentric Citrus Overload, made in Wales, also hit the spot with its sherbet and grapefruit undertones. A lovely fizzy treat.
Every gin was complemented by your choice of Fever-Tree Tonic or Mixer (Elderflower and Sicilian Lemonade proved popular) or combined with one of the many gin liqueurs on offer. Sloe fans were also given a good choice to choose from.
GinFestival.com is the baby of husband and wife team, Jym and Marie Harris. It began in 2012 when they realised there was no festival out there that reflected their own deep love for gin, so they decided to make their own. They set out to make the kind of event that they would love to attend, one that combines a chance to drink an array of new and small batch gins with great music and friendly gin geekery.
From humble beginnings (the first event had only 150 people), the festival has grown massively alongside the UK gin market boom and now hosts events for 4,000 people over a couple of days. The pair have also created the world’s biggest gin specialist online store, selling over 200 different gins from around the world – many of which are exclusive to the website.
Founder Jym Harris said: “When we started, the world of gin was very different. There were a few craft distillers people were starting to notice, but in most pubs you’d struggle to get anything other than the same boring gins served with cheap tonic and a limp garnish. We already knew from our own experience that gin is an amazing drink, but you need to serve it with care, artistry and great tonic. We wanted to introduce people with to a really exciting selection of gins.”
“I think what’s worked for us, in particular, has been importing the large, Spanish-style ‘copa’ glass for guests to use and giving them the chance to try different garnishes that complement the flavour of the botanicals. It’s also just a great day out, which keeps people coming back time after time. Having a wide range of gins to choose from has also been crucial as that really captures the imagination – most will leave having found at least one gin they really love.”
For more information, visit ginfestival.com