Over the Easter weekend Manchester played host to the Gin Festival, a touring two day festival of all things gin. I’m a gin enthusiast but not an expert, so I went along to sample the delights of the festival and hopefully sample a few new gins along the way.
Arriving at Victoria Baths, a building I’ve not set foot in for nearly 30 years, my memories were of a rather grotty municipal swimming baths, but I was very pleasantly surprised by its beautifully restored Edwardian features.
Once through the door, I was handed a large gin glass (horrah!), a gin guide and pointed in the direction of the gin. My first stop was “The Brand Room”, a room where lots of gin brands had set up stands where gin lovers could go and sample their wares, as well as learn a little more about each gin. It was an interesting room to find out a little more about gin and to suss out any which warranted further tasting and investigation later on.
Moving on to “The Gin” which was a huge room with four bar areas which housed UK gins, International Gins and Fruit Gin Liqueurs and other novelties. This was where you could consult your gin guide and make your selection. It works just like a beer festival, you buy a number of tokens on a card and when you buy your G&T a token gets crossed off. Each token cost £5 and I bought three.
My first port of call was to try a Daffy’s and Indian tonic, garnished with mint and lime. A gin drinking friend had recommended Daffy’s as the best gin they’d ever had, so I had to try it on pain of death. It was a very excellent G&T, the tasting notes say it is woody on the nose with lively juniper and citrus flavours and a buttery finish. It was one of those incredibly refreshing G&T’s and I was sad to finish it.
After consulting the gin guide (I fancied everything in the gin guide, but I had to ration myself), I opted to try Curio Cornish Gin, which contained hand foraged botanicals from the Cornish cliffs including rock samphire. The tasting notes suggested that it would be reminiscent of the sea, gentle and citrussy with an aniseed finish. It was paired with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic and garnished with chopped fennel, not something I’ve ever had in a G&T but it was a delicious and almost savory combination which I enjoyed tremendously.
Needing a sit down and something to set me up for a bit more gin, I headed to the “Still & Stove” area which had a number of food stalls offering the now ubiquitous pulled pork. I opted for a hearty Spanish stew of spinach and chickpeas served with cous cous which was very tasty.
Suitably replete I was ready for a masterclass in gin. I opted to find out more about Masons Yorkshire Gin, having sampled their three quite different and quite beautiful gins earlier in the brand room. I was especially taken with their gin which had been infused with Yorkshire tea, which was delicate and unusual and possibly my favourite gin at the festival.
Held in another beautiful room complete with stunning stained glass, a full room of gin lovers listened to the history of Masons gin as told by their brand ambassador Sophie. Sophie then passed around samples of the gin to an approving crowd, many of which I’m sure headed straight for the shop in the gin hall and bought a bottle (or two) to take home.
I had one G&T token left so I had to choose wisely. On the recommendation of Laura, one of the Gin Festival team I selected the Edinburgh Rhubarb & Ginger Gin Liqueur, a beautiful and delicately flavoured gin which was garnished with apple. I was told to try it first before adding soda water because the flavour changed when diluted, and I’m glad I did, it was gorgeous. I regretted adding the soda water as it really watered down the delicious liqueur, I’ll know better next time.
I can’t actually think of a better way to spend a Bank Holiday Sunday than in the beautiful surroundings of Victoria Baths drinking and enjoying gin. It’s such an amazing venue for the Gin Festival. The Gin Festival itself was very relaxed, well laid out with the stands and bar areas having plenty of space around them for the gathering crowds of gin lovers. I can’t fault the selection of gin on offer and I’ve discovered a gin or two I’ll be searching out in the future.
I’ll be watching and waiting for the Gin Festival to swing back into town again, it was so interesting and a lovely social and civilised afternoon, if you like gin then this is an event not to be missed. This weekend was a sell out so you do have to book your tickets (£7.50) early to avoid disappointment.
To find out more about the Gin Festival and to see if there’s one in your area, visit their website for more information.