Around 2 years ago the only Gin I could have named was Bombay Sapphire and that was only because it was my parents Gin of choice. That slowly started to turn around and now, since the Gin Festival came to Nottingham, I have plenty of Gin knowledge.
The festival came into the city over the weekend and held a few sessions both morning and afternoon across Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd April. By Saturday lunchtime I made my way across to the Nottingham Conference Centre and the atmosphere was fantastic. There were plenty of people that had already arrived and everyone was given their own Gin Festival glass to take round with them. A great idea as you aren’t continuously wasting cups and it is a memento from the day.
I had chosen the afternoon slot to attend from 12.30 until 5pm and, as it was suggested previously, this is plenty of time to sip and sample gin. The first thing to do was collect your tokens. These come in the form of small cards and works better than taking money out each time. It works out as £5 a drink which for a Gin, tonic and entertainment is a good deal.
The bars were set up in two different spaces and were labelled A ,B, C and D. These were defined with what kind of gin each bar was serving and most people were going in order. Highly sensible, I’m sure. I decided to follow suit and got into the line for Bar A. Along with the glass you are given when you enter you are also gifted a Gin Discovery Book. This was very useful to me at that moment as there were Gin brands I had never heard of or knew what they tasted like. I decided, from the book, to go for a Daffy’s. Described as having a ‘hint of toffee’ and a ‘buttery finish’ I thought this was a very good place to start. You helped yourself to Indian tonic water supplied by Fever-Tree placed at the end of each bar or a flavoured tonic if you wished. The book recommended each pairing including a garnish, I don’t know if anyone went against the book but I certainly left it to the experts. The Daffy’s went down very smoothly as I wandered around the rest of the event and I would suggest trying it in its hometown Edinburgh.
Whilst you have a drink in hand there is still lots to see at the Festival. In another room there was multiple brand stands with a little information about each and plenty of Gin samples being handed out. I went to the most local brand that was there on Saturday which was Two Birds based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Every stand was busy and this one was no different. They were also holding masterclasses throughout the afternoon to learn more about the companies and the gin making process. I attended the Two Birds masterclass as it was a few minutes away and very much enjoyed learning how Gin was distilled and what elements were included.
After the masterclass I was joined by a couple of friends and we got in line for another drink. The queues, although they looked long, were not bad at all, especially when you’re having a chat. The bartenders were quick to serve you and mark off a token whilst still being cheerful and helpful. There was live music at the conference centre and it really gave the event a festival atmosphere whilst being in the comfort and warmth of the indoors with no fear of getting wet if a downpour was to happen. We got to see two bands while we were there and commented on how good both were.
We got to try a few more drinks over the next couple of hours with my next being the Belgium based Braeckman’s Hazelnoot Jenever. I’ve always loved Irish cream and this sounded like it would be similar. It was, and of course it was delicious.
The only downside to having an ‘after dinner’ drink was that there wasn’t enough of it so we got into the queue for Bar B shortly after. This time I decided to try something more local and went for the Sir Robin of Locksley distilled in Sheffield. This was described as having a ‘lingering citrus finish’ and it did indeed, whilst still tasting sweet and smooth. It was recommended that it go with the Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic and together they made a perfectly fruity drink garnished with pink grapefruit. This was probably my favourite gin and tonic mix from the day and I would certainly have it again.
The one that we didn’t particularly take a taste to was the Black Tomato Gin but I’m sure if you’re a Bloody Mary connoisseur you’d enjoy it as it had a similar flavour.
Other stalls at the festival were the shop to purchase drink tokens and various gin related gifts. You could also have your picture taken at the photo booth. This queue took longer than the ones at the bars but no one seemed to mind and you didn’t have to pay.
The last drink I was able to try was the Two Birds London Dry Gin. After hearing about it in the masterclass I learnt that it had five botanical’s and they had kept it as a ‘top quality gin’. This was paired with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic and garnished with cucumber. It certainly tasted the neatest.
After a few drinks it was time for something to eat so we followed the signs for street food. We stopped at the Alimento tent to have tapas. It was incredibly good food and I wish we could have tried more from the other couple of tents but it was now time to go. Last orders were called and slowly people made their way out.
On returning home the Gin Festival was all I could talk about for the next few days and we are hopefully planning to attend the Sheffield Gin Festival. I would definitely go again as I feel there was so much more to experience and a lot more Gin to try!
Thanks for reading!