Gin With A View // A Review of Gin Festival Torquay
Boshemia loves gin. Period.
Can you imagine our delight when the UK contingent of Boshemia were lucky enough to be invited to GinFestival.com's event in Torquay on Friday evening?
On arrival we were handed a beautiful and robust stemmed glass from which to drink our gins throughout the evening, along with The Gin Discovery Book - our gin bible from the evening. This book is packed with a ton of gin trivia and information, as well as essentially functioning as your menu for the evening.
~Arrival notes: On reflection we would have also liked a bespoke, venue-specific piece of literature as part of the welcome pack, detailing the layout and schedule of events, since we almost missed parts of the festival due to simply not realising they were happening. Also, we lamented the lack of cloakroom given how many bags and things you are handed upon arrival - however, this may not be the same for every venue.~
Glass in hand and ticket-badge pinned proudly to our chests, we strolled merrily into the hall towards the gin.
The ambiance was lilting around that perfect balance between not too intimidatingly fancy and not too casual; the live music complimented the tone of the evening superbly and the beautiful setting looking out to sea was sublime and offset the entire experience.
The way the event was organised was very impressively slick and meant that we never had to wait more than 5 minutes for anything, including the bar.
The festival operates on a token system; one token = one measure of gin. You purchase your tokens at a dedicated booth, which then become your currency for the evening. The gins are also organised into 4 separate bars - A, B, C or D - which are marked in your Gin Discovery Book. The combination of these two elements, along with keeping your own glass throughout the entire evening, makes the exchanges at the bar lightning fast and it takes mere moments to get hold of your elixir of choice.
(Extra kudos for being largely waste-free by not using plastic!)
Each bar was adorned with rows upon rows of bottles of gin glittering in the cool evening light, like clusters of ripe, quivering, jewel-like berries begging to be picked. The correct garnish, as recommended in the Gin Discovery Book, in a small basket beneath each one. It was incredible - not a single measure of Gordon's or Bombay Sapphire in sight - this was artisan gin, lovingly crafted by its makers and specifically sought by Jym and Marie Harris, the founders of GinFestival.com. We were absolutely spoiled for choice - a fine collection of sloes and drys, citrus and floral, classic and contemporary. We sampled nine in total - see the end of this article for our top three. We filled our gin glasses, swung by the Fever-Tree Tonic table to top up our drinks, then took a moment to admire the view out to sea from the balcony and absorb the gorgeous atmosphere.
Twinkling lights overhead; the endless promise of the horizon nearby; smooth jazz floating on the airwaves; cold sweet gin with the tartness of pear.
Gin firmly in hand, we checked out the Masterclasses; the first from Salcombe Gin was a tad dry (pardon the pun) and was geared towards the technical elements of gin - perfect for gin brewing aficionados but less so for your average gin-drinker. The second was from a delightful beardy Scouseman from Tinker Gin, a brand new kid-on-the-gin-block (only two months old!). His presentation was hilarious and engaging and their gin was divine - in fact, L was already drinking and savouring a glass of it before we even clocked that they were delivering a Masterclass.
The Masterclasses added a nice dimension to the evening that we hadn't expected; it lifted the tone of the event to something quasi-scholarly and really deepened the very real and genuine gin appreciation rife throughout the entire festival. That said, this didn't translate into snobbishness at any point whatsoever.
We loved the silly photobooth; we didn't quite get round to trying the cocktail bar; we LOVED the popcorn but wished there was more variety of hot food on offer - one vegetarian blogger + hog roast stand does not a happy girl make. Luckily we had already eaten. The seemingly odd marrying of a playful, rustic, festival aesthetic with the classy atmosphere of jazz and gin in stemmed glasses was actually delightful.
Overall, the festival was absolutely wonderful and we left raving and singing its praises. It was classy and fun and lively and friendly and accommodating and passionate; a real gleeful celebration of gin.
Our Favourite Gins of the Night
Between us we sampled a grand total of nine gins throughout the evening; Opihr; Tinker; Elephant; Friday Chic; Poetic License Old Tom; Poetic License Northern Dry; Brockmans; Edinburgh Plum and Vanilla Sloe; and Sovereign Apple and Blackberry Sloe.
Every single one was delightful, but here are our top three favourites:
"Yorkshire. England. ABV 40% / Garnish: Pear / Pairs best with: Fever-Tree Light Tonic.
Tinker is a British made, Spanish style gin. Fresh, light and fruity, it is made by distilling juniper, coriander, orange, lemon, cassia, cinnamon, orris, angelica, liquorice, nutmeg and elderberries. Tinker doesn't have a bitter aftertaste like many other gins, instead, finishing with gentle berries."*
This was L's favourite gin of the evening. It was sweet and smooth and summery and the pear garnish added a gorgeous finishing layer to the entire ensemble. In fact, she loved it so much that she came away from the evening as the proud owner of a bottle of Tinker Gin's first ever batch. A nice touch to this baby company is that they were Crowdfunded into existence - a taste of the power of the people!
"Birmingham, England. ABV 40% / Garnish: Pink Grapefruit & Blueberries / Pair with: Ginger Ale.
Brockmans unusual combination of botanicals creates a seductively smooth and well balanced gin. Luscious and bright, Brockmans is a firm move away from traditional dry gins. Bold berry essences add a sense of modern luxury. This is a sweet and innovative gin, with an emphasis on enjoyment over following the rules. Brockmans is a fabulous spirit with a taste like no other."
This was Q's favourite gin of the night, which she also purchased. Q said:
"The thing I liked most about it was the richness; with one sip I was transported to a mid-century cocktail party wearing jewels and smoking. I've tried many a gin in my life, but the richness and smoothness made it like no other. I look forward to enjoying it in the future with an ice cold ginger ale, or with tonic and a slice of pink grapefruit and blueberries to bring out the dark yet refreshing taste."*
"Sunderland, England. ABV 41.6% / Garnish: Apple / Pairs best with: Ginger Ale
A wonderful rose-gold colour, Poetic License Old Tom is a fantastic offering. Aged in oak casks, this unusually woody gin is well balanced by rounded sweetness and light floral notes. Sweet yet peppery and incredibly distinctive, Poetic License Old Tom Gin is made in a distillery that set out to craft wild spirits."*
This gin was absolutely delightful, and it came to the festival with a cousin - Poetic License Northern Dry. We tried both, but this was our favourite. It was so complex yet timeless; the slight spice and oakiness made it feel warm and comforting, while never comprising the classic freshness of a G&T.
*Extracts from The Gin Discovery Book.
GinFestival.com's next stop is Nottingham this coming weekend (22nd-23rd April), followed by Swansea, Bournemouth and Bristol. They are touring all over the UK right through to September. Find out about events near you and book tickets at https://www.ginfestival.com/events.
You can also buy all the gins we've talked about in this article, and many more, from their online shop.