A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a Gin Festival at the Steam Museum in Swindon. Accompanied by my brother (turns out it’s not hard to find a plus one for a gin festival!) we set out to immerse ourselves into the heady world of craft gins.
Founded by a husband and wife team in 2013, GinFestival.com is on a non-stop tour around the UK. Its mission is simple; to bring the best craft gins, packed full of flavour, to as many people as possible. And they certainly did that in Swindon with a total of 65 different artisan gins for attendees to chose from.
So how does Gin Festival work?
On arrival at the Gin Festival, we collected our Gin Festival glass, a tasting guide which showcased all the gins on offer and included suggestions for mixers and garnishes and a bag to hold our glass.
Within the venue we found five bars each stocked with a different selection of gins, a cocktail bar, a street food area, live music and a pop-up gin-shop with masterclasses taking place in a nearby conference room. There was also a selection of producers exhibiting their wares who were very happy to chat about their product, kindly pose for photos and give us samples to try.
The festival uses a token system to pay for drinks with each token costing £5. One token will get you a G&T while the cocktails require two tokens.
What we tried at Gin Festival.
To make our review as comprehensive as possible, my brother and I felt duty bound to try as many of the available gins between us as we could. A surprisingly hard task as the range was phenomenal.
I started with a Tinker Pink Gin which has berries, and liquorice added to the traditional botanicals before being infused with strawberries. It is delicious and the most beautiful colour – a perfect summer gin.
My brother went for a City of London Distillery Old Tom Gin which is described as gorgeously classic with a hint of sweetness combined with a light spiciness. That got the thumbs up too.
Next, we tried a cocktail each. Tinker Berry Fizz for me which contained Pink Tinker, Prosecco, elderflower syrup, crème de fraise, cranberry juice, mint and lemon juice. And for my brother the Rhubarb Rumble containing Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger Liqueur, Advocaat, Apple Juice, Lemon Juice and a dash of rhubarb bitters. They both tasted as amazing as they looked, and the barman who made them was great fun.
Cocktails in hand we then made our way to one of the Masterclasses. Presented by Dan Walsh from Tinker Gin he quickly dispelled any myth that craft gin producers are snobs with his very entertaining stand up comedy style delivery and rather colourful language.
It was at this point we realised that eating might be a good idea and filled up with yummy jerk chicken before turning our attention back to gin. Our final two drinks were Sloemotion Hedgerow made with locally foraged botanicals including rose-hip, crab-apple and elderflower for me while my brother finished with Slingsby Rhubarb, a delicious rhubarb and raspberry offering from Yorkshire.
We would like to give a shout-out to all the gin producers who were kind enough to let us sample their products while we chatted with them. We loved the Jam Jar Gin in its cute packaging and bought one as a present. The delicious Tinker Gin which we proved is super drinkable by the number of samples we managed to consume. Brockmans Gin in its stunning bottle which contains blueberries and tastes so good I had to buy some, and Ramsbury Gin which was also delicious, smelled divine and contained quince. We also loved meeting the lovely girl on the Schweppes stand who explained the new 1783 range to us and let us try them all – I now have a fridge full of floral tonic thanks to her advice!
What we thought of Gin Festival
One thing that stood out to us was the professionalism and dedication of the Gin Festival staff. All the employees we spoke to were permanent members of the team. Not only did they have an in-depth knowledge of the gins that were on offer but they also clearly enjoyed working for, and representing the Gin Festival brand – which was great to see.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Gin Festival at Steam, and not just because of the gin! The event was busy without being over-crowded, everyone was friendly, and there was a fab atmosphere. As a parent, I had almost forgotten what it was like to go to an adults-only event, and I have to admit that I loved it. We hope that the Gin Festival will come back to Swindon again next year, we will definitely attend again if they do.
Ticket prices for the Gin Festival vary depending on the venue and session but typically cost between £11 and £15. Each ticket includes admittance to the event, a festival glass (plus a canvas bag to carry it home in) and a tasting guide. Also included is live music, access to the gin masterclasses, and a sample or two from the Distillers when you visit their stands. You can check out the rest of the 2018 Gin Festival events here. And if you would like to marvel at the vast (over 500 of them) range of gins that gin festival sells in their online shop you can see them all here.
Disclosure: We are invited to attend the Gin Festival at the Steam Museum in Swindon for the purpose of this review.