Thought I’d just do a mini write-up/impressions post on this one rather than a full review.
Ever since the very sad collapse of Gin Festival Ltd. I’ve rather been missing something similar, so when the Great British Gin Festival came to my old University city, I thought it was time to have a look. While GB Gin Festival has been running since before the loss of GF Ltd (moved into abbreviations now), they have very much the same layout and feeling, which is no bad thing.
The event did feel a little disorganised off the bat. When we arrived, at the start time, there were still lorries pulling up to unload bottles of tonic water, and the door staff wound up just letting people in without checking any tickets because they were having issues. Once in though, everything settled down a bit. The layout of the venue was done fairly well, the bars spaced out enough to give people room to queue, but also leaving lots of seating on the dance floor in front of the stage. Have to say that at no time during the event did I have to queue for more than a few minutes which was a bonus and meant it didn’t feel like there were ever too many people. If I did have a couple of grumbles, one is that there were a few gins that they were out of from the offset, but that could have just been down to availability from suppliers or distillers. The other would be that I really miss being able to pour my own tonic, to my liking. The tonics here are behind the bar and poured by the bar staff, which means if you want to try your gin neat first you’ve got to stand there tasting it, holding up the bar, and then get your tonic poured before leaving. The bar staff themselves couldn’t have been nicer though and were very friendly and happy to let me taste and sniff away before pouring the tonic. Gin Festival Ltd. had the tonics on a separate table so you could help yourself as you wanted it which I always thought was a really good way to do it, though appreciate also probably resulted in more waste and perhaps most people are happy to just have the tonic poured.
One of the nicest things to see was some great distillers represented in the tasting room. Isle of Wight Distillery, Bullards, HMS Spirits, Ely, Whitely Neil and Marylebone and of course the ever-present Brockmans among others. This room was packed the whole time we were there with people chatting and tasting which was really nice to see. In contrast, the Masterclasses were rather disappointing with, from what I could see, one from Brockmans and one based on cocktails. These were shown on a little blackboard near the stage. Would have been nice to see talks from a few more distillers.
Perhaps, without sounding like a raging gin snob, I’ve outgrown these events a little bit now. I’ve been lucky enough to try a lot of gin, so there wasn’t a huge amount new to me on the list. Not knocking the selection itself though, a really good selection of over 100, with something to suit every taste, including some navy gins which definitely perked me up. While I’d quite happily go back in the future, I think it’d need to be with a group of friends for a fun afternoon, rather than just myself and my partner to try new gins. Still very enjoyable though, the entertainment was excellent, and there was a constantly nice, fun atmosphere with no “get drunk” mentality obvious.
Where I still think these kinds of festivals really shine is in giving people a chance to try lots of different gins they may otherwise never come across at what I still think is a very reasonable £5 a pop. Time to get a group of friends together for the Ipswich festival and broaden some gin horizons!