Last weekend, I was lucky to be invited to The Gin Festival, Nottingham. Held in the spacious Conference Centre on Burton Street, the UK’s largest Gin Festival kicked off a joyous weekend. I’ll be honest, gin isn’t my drink of choice, so I saw this is an opportunity to broaden my horizons, get experimental and enjoy the gin ride.

Check-in was super smooth, thanks to the efficient Laura and team. We were given our very own cutesy Gin Festival glass, gin book chock-full of information on all the gins you can try, a little about each company and the suggested garnish. This is now a mini-bible of sorts which sits next to my cocktail book. On the day, if you want to buy gin, you need tokens (we had a card of 4 for £20, or you can just buy single tokens for £5 per drink).

And because it was a glorious day, we were able to check-in our coats in the pop-up concierge too. I was glad to see plenty of seating in the shape of comfy chairs and sofas around the building. Too often, festivals have a slap-dash ambience and the comfort of revellers is seen as an afterthought.  (Note to other festival organisers – it is little touches like these which sets The Gin Festival apart. Watch and learn.)

Gin

Glass in hand, tokens at the ready, we were ready to start tasting gin. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but with over 100 gins, I was definitely spoilt for choice. For the first 30 seconds, I felt like a newcomer late to a really cool party. You know that scene from ‘She’s All That’ where Laney rocks up at Brock’s party and feels uber out of place? Turns out the gin crowd are friendly folk. The lovely staff were attentive and even recommended some gins for us to try. What I thought was a nice touch, was the open bowls filled with spices and flavours, displayed on the tables. This augmented the gin tasting, as well as educated the public. With gin stalls set over two floors and sprawling through the building, this was one festival which was a joy to navigate and attend.

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We got chatting to James Kuhnel from Locksley Distilling Co Ltd, who talked us through the company’s hand-raised gin.

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It’s a gorgeous blend of traditional botanicals with a hit of elderflower, whisper of dandelion and zingy pink grapefruit on the swallow.

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Now, what I’ve noticed about gins – nearly all of them, is that their branding is spot on. They look the part, the bottles consisting of striking glass packaging, eye-catching labels and intriguing names which you just can’t help but be drawn to. Which is where we come to Brockmans GIn in an artsy gothic bottle as dark as a Halloween night.

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It was one of the smoothest gins I tasted that day, with a pronounced zing of blueberries on the swallow. The citrus and berries make a heady concoction, which is why this is now one of my favourite tipples to taste. I can imagine this to go really well with a nice dry ginger ale, to accentuate the dryness of the berries, or a tonic water.

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This gin is great with a mixer, or even neat over ice. The sexy matt black brochure handed out by Brockmans was handy in all its macho glory. Listing a choice of cocktails, I decided to make the Brockmans Bramble when I get around to ordering this fantastic gin.

There were plenty of gins to taste (Mother’s Ruin, Curio, Gin Mare and Hayman’s Sloe to name but a few). But because I’m more of a cocktail gal, I had to hop on over to the gin bar, where I ordered a Drunken Tulip. This consisted of Ford’s Gin, Prosecco, pomegranate juice, elderflower cordial and fresh lemon. Here is the bar that was neat and pretty (why can’t all bars be nice to look at?).

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I also thought it was a novel way to showcase gin (bottles were wall-mounted) with queues snaking around the tables. The English gins were massively popular, which got me thinking. Gin is a quintessentially British drink (almost as gentrified as Pimms and lemonade) and would be lovely to sip with an ice cold tonic water whilst watching Wimbledon. This Adnams Copper House, described as “elegant and approachable” (it was one hell of a deliciously smooth tipple) would be the perfect drinking companion whilst watching any type of sport.

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What I loved was the vibe at the festival, which was great fun, exciting and downright jolly. Everyone seemed to be into their gin and really passionate about it, which is probably why the festival was an awesome place to be.

The lovely Tom was photographer extraordinaire taking photos of festival-goers; he had also set up a cool photo-booth where you could summon up your best smile and strike a pose. Check out his photos from the Gin Festival here, and if you spot yourself, Tweet me (@Amber_Tesia) and the Gin Festival (@GinFestival), we’d love to hear from you!

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There was live entertainment throughout the day (sorry for the blurry image, the band were a hyperactive duo and I couldn’t get them to keep still!). These incredibly talented musicians are Ben Holder and Stuart Carter-Smith, whose toe-tapping tunes were a wonderful backdrop to sipping gin.

There were also talks from gin experts, who extolled wise words of wisdom to gin enthusiasts. This event had a lovely mixed crowd. So, who are these Gin Festivals for? Everyone, from newbie gin tasters to those seasoned gin drinkers. I’m new to gin and have found myself ordering gin a lot more, since being introduced to it properly. Which is why I must say a massive thank you to Jym and Marie Harris who organised this wonderful series of gin festivals. This festival came about after this lovely couple discovered there wasn’t a festival celebrating their beloved gin and hence spotted an opening in the market. The rest is history and with each year, the festival grows from strength to strength.

If you couldn’t make the Nottingham gin festival, please go to website www.ginfestival.com now. There are still tickets left for Bournemouth and Bristol, but just a heads up – these tickets have a tendency to get sold out super-fast, so I’d suggest you buy asap.

RAxx

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